House Republicans dropped an effort to cut off funding for an online political disclosure rule adopted by the Federal Communications Commission. An amendment to remove the defunding provision was then approved by the House Appropriations Committee.
Last week, Justice at Stake urged bipartisan leaders (see Gavel Grab), including the chairman and senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, to protect the rule. It 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.
An effort in subcommittee earlier to cut off funding for the transparency requirement “attracted media attention and sparked outrage from outside public interest groups and Democrats,” according to a ProPublica article. This week, the sponsor of the successful, and controversial, amendment backed down.
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., introduced a revised proposal that withdrew her earlier version and called instead for a U.S. General Accountability Office study. It would examine the effect of the political ad rule on TV ad sales and at the costs to broadcasters of putting political ad files online. Media companies have argued that doing this would be expensive.
“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 to the congressional leaders last week.
“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.” You can view his letter to the Appropriations leaders here, and to senior House leaders, here.