Justice at Stake has urged bipartisan congressional leaders to protect a new political disclosure rule adopted by the Federal Communications Commission. The rule is under attack from some House Republicans, who are seeking to cut off funding for its implementation (see Gavel Grab).
The rule would require major broadcasters to disclose online who is funding campaign ads and how much they are spending for them. Currently, such records are kept by individual broadcast outlets, making it difficult to determine who is bankrolling TV election ads.
“JAS approaches this issue as an organization that realizes that the strength and vitality of the judiciary depends in large part upon the public’s confidence in the fairness and impartiality of judges,” JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg wrote in a letter to the leaders. “The public’s confidence can be strengthened by promoting greater transparency in the campaign spending made during the course of state judicial elections; in contrast, when campaign spending is more opaque, the public’s trust can be undermined.”
In the 2000-09 decade, election spending exploded in state supreme court races. According to the “New Politics of Judicial Elections 2000-2009: Decade of Change,” at least $39 million was spent by non-candidate groups on judicial election advertisements. Total spending by special interest groups and political parties was estimated at $50 million to $100 million during the decade, much of it undisclosed to the public.
The letter emphasized that the FCC is comprised of both Republican and Democratic commissioners. To see the JAS letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, click here. To see a similar letter to Reps. Harold Rogers, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Norman Dicks, senior Democrat on the Committee, click here.
Earlier, the Campaign Legal Center and 17 other organizations called on Senate appropriators to stop the anti-disclosure measure in the House. The Campaign Legal Center is a JAS partner group on campaign reform issues.
And also, a dozen broadcasters have asked the FCC to reconsider the new political disclosure rule and soften it, according to a ProPublica article.
A petition for FCC reconsideration, filed by attorneys for the dozen broadcasters, contends that the broadcasters’ business would by harmed by the disclosure of ad price information online. The petition mirrored arguments made when broadcasters opposed the proposed rule that the FCC ultimately adopted.