The House of Representatives rejected an amendment last night that would have required that sponsors of independent political expenditure television and radio ads disclose the identity of donors whose contribute $10,000 or more to their efforts. The amendment to a Federal Communications Commission reform bill, offered by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), was defeated on a mostly party-line vote of 179 for to 238 against.
Eshoo explained the need for the amendment:
All Americans have a right to honest information about who has paid for the political messages they receive. This includes the sponsors of political advertisements — not just the names of sham entities designed to evade disclosure.
Americans are besieged by anonymous campaign ads around the clock this year. With disclosure and transparency, the public will be able to decide for themselves, because relevant information about the interests and their impact will be public. Disclosure of an ad’s major donors does not place any undue burdens on speech or industry. It will empower the voters.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, objected to the proposal complaining that it might have unintended consequences for public broadcasting sponsors and offered the bizarre justification that it would not require enough disclosure for elected officials. He lamented that the $10,000 threshold would mean voters would only see “a tiny little window” into who backed members of Congress (who are already subject to much stricter disclosure requirements under election law) and might be evaded by outside committees.
Five Republicans voted in favor of disclosure. They were:
- Rep. Joe Barton (TX)
- Rep. Walter Jones (NC)
- Rep. Don Manzullo (IL)
- Rep. Todd Russell Platts (PA)
- Rep. CW Bill Young (FL)
- Eight Democrats opposed the measure:
- Rep. John Barrow (GA)
- Rep. Dan Boren (OK)
- Rep. Dennis Cardoza (CA)
- Rep. Jim Cooper (TN)
- Rep. Kathy Hochul (NY)
- Rep. Collin Peterson (MN)
- Rep. Kurt Schrader (OR)
- Rep. Heath Shuler (NC)
- All of the Democratic opponents except Hochul are members of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition, a group historically supportive of campaign finance reform. Reps. Cardoza, Cooper, Schrader, and Shuler all voted for the DISCLOSE Act in 2010, a measure which contained similar disclosure requirements, among other provisions.