Activists: President Must Answer Enhanced Disclosure Call

Activist group Rootstrikers says it has gotten 100,000 signatures on its petition to the White House (108,307 at last count), which it says means the President must now respond to its call on the White House to urge FCC chair Tom Wheeler to boost on-air disclosures of funders of political ads.

Demand Progress released a report Dec. 8 calling the President out for inaction on "secret money in politics,"

Rootstrikers says because its petition is integrated with the White House's "We the People" petitions, the Administration is now obligated to respond within 60 days to their call for, among other things, the FCC to use its authority to "unmask secret political donors."

Actually, the White House has some wiggle room with that that 60 days since its policy says it will do so "whenever possible." Petitions must also collect 100,000 signatures within 30 days. It meets that test since the petition was launched Nov. 16, according to a spokesperson.

Various groups and some in Congress have been pushing the FCC to require more detailed on-air disclosures of PAC ads running on TV stations.

Those stations are required to identify the sponsors of the ads, but campaign finance reformers say the FCC should interpret that to mean the actual funders, rather than the "paid for by Americans for America" type of disclosure that they argue hides, rather than identifies, the "dark" money behind political ads.

One of the congressional backers of more specific TV ad disclosures is Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.).

He attempted to amend the FCC Process Reform Act, which passed the House this week, to direct the FCC to use its "existing authority" to require the on-air sponsorship identifications on TV and radio political ads of PACs and nonprofits to better identify the actual funders of those ads.

That amendment, the Keep Our Campaigns Honest, or KOCH Act (a jab at the Republican Koch brother donors) was defeated in committee, but he raised the issue with FCC chairman Tom Wheeler at the House Communications FCC oversight hearing Tuesday (Nov. 17).

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.