New Bill Would Heighten Political Ad Disclosures

A bipartisan trio of House members has introduced the Political Accountability and Transparency Act (PATA), a campaign political spending bill that would tighten disclosure requirements on political advertisers.

Currently, TV and radio ads only have to identify the individual or organization sponsoring an ad. The bill would require political ads to disclose the top donors to the organization backing the ads. "increasing political spending transparency and stopping politicians from using leadership PACs as slush funds are broadly popular bipartisan reforms.

"Voters have a right to know who is bankrolling campaign ads," said Campaign Legal Center Trevor Potter. "And it would seem obvious that lawmakers shouldn’t be using donors’ PAC money to fund golf memberships, trips to five-star resorts, and Disney World vacations.”

The bill would also prohibit politicians "from abusing leadership PAC funds for personal gain by clarifying that the “personal use” restriction on campaign funds applies to all political committees, including leadership PACs."

“We are pleased to see the leaders of the bipartisan Congressional Reformers Caucus put forward new ideas to help fix America’s broken political system,” said Meredith McGehee, executive director of political reform group Issue One. “The Political Accountability and Transparency Act addresses some of the most obvious flaws in federal campaign law that repeatedly frustrate members of Congress on both sides of the aisle."

So-called "dark money" ads have proliferated since the Supreme Court, in the Citizens United case, held that corporations, unions, nonprofits and associations have free speech rights and that government had to tread lightly when trying to restrict expenditures on that political speech.

The court signaled that one of the ways the government could address such protected speech was through disclosure. Introducing the bill were Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.), and Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), co-chairs of the Congressional Reformers Caucus.

Coincidentally, the Senate on Thursday (Dec. 13) passed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution restoring the Treasury Department’s requirement that nonprofits, associations and unions must disclose names and addresses of "major" donors to the IRS, according to Public Citizen, which has also been pushing for campaign finance reforms.

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.