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Eshoo: Time for FCC to Update Political Disclosure Rules

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) took to the pages of the San Jose Mercury News to push for action on a Democrat-backed bill that would force the FCC to boost its political ad disclosure requirements.

The Keeping Our Campaigns Honest, or KOCH, bill (a jab at Republican uber donors the Koch brothers) was unveiled a couple of weeks ago, but the Republican leadership of the House Communications Subcommittee did not include it in a hearing on FCC process reform bills, much to the Democrats chagrin, and have not included it in a May 20 markup of those bills.

In an op ed for the paper, Eshoo, who co-sponsored the bill, said it would simply require the FCC to "update" its disclosure rules to reflect the intent of Congress and would "shine a light on the true sponsors of political ads that flood the nation's airwaves."

She pointed out that some are predicting presidential campaign ads could generate $10 billion in outside spending, while she argues that FCC enforcement of its disclosure rules has "stagnated" for decades due to what she calls a "weak" interpretation of the requirement.

"A Government Accountability Office report published last year confirmed the FCC's authority to require more meaningful disclosure of the sponsors of on-air advertisements, including political advertisements," she said, and wants the FCC to use that power.

Currently, the FCC has interpreted its rules to mean disclosing the Super PAC behind ads, but Eshoo and other Democrats want it to require more detailed disclosures of the corporate—or union—money behind those PACs.

The bill is part of an ongoing effort to boost disclosures since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allowed corporations and unions to fund campaign ads in federal elections, treating the ban on direct contributions as an unconstitutional suppression of political speech.

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.