CREW Hails TV Ad Disclosure Victory

Citizens for Responsibility in Ethics says the Supreme Court has just insured that some "dark money" spending on midterm election advertising will have to be disclosed. That could put a crimp in TV and radio station election ad budgets if it discourages big-money donors from putting their names on the ads.

CREW said the Court has denied one stay, and lifted a temporary stay imposed by Chief Justice John Roberts, on a lower court victory last month for CREW in its challenge to Crossroads GPS TV ads and the Federal Election Commission's ruling that those ads were OK.

CREW said that Supreme Court decision, combined with lower court decisions, means that as of now, any group contributing more than $250 to express advocacy ads--ones expressly for or against a candidate--have to disclose the identities of any contributors of more than $200 per year, and which of those earmarked those contributions for advocacy ads.

Related: Civil Rights Groups Back Applying TV, Radio Political Ad Disclosures to Web

“This is a great day for transparency and democracy,” said CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder. “Three courts, including the Supreme Court, have now rejected Crossroads’ arguments for a stay, meaning we’re about to know a lot more about who is funding our elections.”

CREW filed suit against the FEC back in February 2016 for "improperly dismissing CREW’s 2012 FEC complaint against conservative PAC Crossroads GPS." That complaint alleged Crossroads failed to report TV ads it ran against Democratic Senate candidates to the FEC. The FEC ruled against CREW, which led to the legal fight.

A U.S. District Court judge had ruled last month that Crossroads would have to identify its donors, but the PAC sought and got a temporary stay of that decision from Roberts last weekend, arguing that without further guidance from the FEC, which was not forthcoming, the change in disclosure, "core political speech and the 2018 electoral process" would be "disrupted. "That stay was lifted Tuesday (Sept. 18), also by Roberts, and a request for a longer stay pending appeal was denied.

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.