Republicans Block Online Disclosure Of Campaign Television Ad Spending

The Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision has created a flood of television ad spending — hundreds of millions of dollars — from outside groups, corporations, and individuals. The Justices who voted for the decision and its supporters argue that disclosure is all voters need to make informed decisions. But yesterday, a panel of House Republicans moved to keep much of this spending in the dark.

A new FCC guideline that would have forced the nation’s top television stations to list the funders behind political advertisements online.

But the House Appropriations financial services subcommittee voted along party lines to prohibit the FCC from implementing their proposal to add another layer of transparency to the political ad process. Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY) argued that fiscal matters are private and should remain that way, according to the LA Times:

The proposal, which had cleared the Federal Communications Commission in April, would require TV stations affiliated with the four top networks in the 50 largest markets to post political ad sales records online. Stations are already required to make the records available to the public upon request, but most stations keep them in paper files, making it difficult to compile and track the information.

Democrats on the subcommittee tried, unsuccessfully, to strip the rider which blocked the FCC from the funding bill. Despite several groups and media organizations calling for the records to be posted online, the TV stations themselves have bristled at the idea of making those records publicly available. A widely circulated video made by journalism students at Kent State shows the difficulty they faced in attempting to get hard copies of those records. Political operatives and other insiders will get access to much of the information through high-priced subscription services.