CLC, Pro-Trump PAC Prod FEC on Online Disclosures

The Campaign Legal Center is teaming up with a pro-Trump PAC to try and force the Federal Election Commission to establish strong online ad disclosure rules.

That comes as the Senate and House are hearing from Google, Facebook and Twitter this week about social media's role in Russian election interference, which included online political ads.

CLC has teamed up with the Take Back Action Fund (TBAF) to file an advisory opinion request with the FEC that they say requires the commission to address the issue of online ad transparency by the end of 2017. They don't want a new election cycle to rev up without the protective gear of strong disclosure.

By law the FEC must respond to the request within 60 days, they said.

Anything that boosts disclosure could potentially shrink the political ad spending or redirect it elsewhere by cutting out those who don’t want to have to identify themselves.

"The FEC may not write new online ad rules for quite some time. And legislation may not be enacted any time soon. But by using this advisory request mechanism, TBAF and CLC are invoking their legal right to ensure that the FEC timely address the issue of disclaimers for online political ads," they said.

TBAF actually is trying to get more disclosure because it will be taking out ads in support of the President's anti-government agenda, ads that will "expressly advocate the defeat of candidates who are hiding behind overhyped allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election to cover up their opposition to President Trump's efforts to reform our government," according to the letter.

TBAF says it will be buying ads on Facebook and need to know the size of the disclaimer, which means how much information will need to be disclaimer, which means to respond within 60 days, the FEC would theoretically have to clarify how much information is required. Online ads that expressly advocate for the election, of defeat, of a federal candidate have to include funding disclosure’s just as TV and radio ads do.

TBAF and CLC want an advisory opinion on: "When Take Back Action Fund purchases paid Facebook Image and Vide advertising that expressly advocates for or against a candidate, must that advertising include all, some, or none of the disclaimer information," given that what is required, following a series of past advisories and draft opinions delivering mixed signals, is unclear.

Take Back President John Pudner and CLC's counsel also want to be able to appear at any public FEC meeting where the issue is discussed.

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.