Yarmuth Unveils Political Disclosure Bill

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) has introduced a bill that would direct the FCC to require the on-air sponsorship identifications on TV and radio political ads from PACs and nonprofits to better identify the actual funders of those ads.

According to Yarmuth's office, the Keeping Our Campaigns Honest Act would direct the FCC to use its existing authority to "require disclosure of the donors behind Super PACs and 501(c)(4) organizations that are flooding the nation’s airwaves with anonymous ads."

Specifically, the bill would "direct the Federal Communications Commission to revise its sponsorship identification rules so as to require the disclosure of the names of significant donors to persons paying for or furnishing broadcast matter or origination cablecasting matter that is political matter or matter involving the discussion of a controversial issue of public importance."

Campaign finance reform groups have been urging the FCC to use that authority to require more detailed disclosures, in part as a way to better identify the direct corporate and union campaign speech funding allowed under the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

“The American people are owed a level honesty when it comes to identifying who is trying to influence their vote,” said Yarmuth in a statement. “So long as these individuals are allowed to continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars attempting to impact our elections and our democracy, they should also be required to step out into the light and let voters know just who they are.”

Yarmuth, a former Republican, is new to the Communication Subcommittee, but there are plenty of more familiar names backing the bill. Its co-sponsors include Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), ranking member of the full House Energy & Commerce Committee, Communications ranking member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and more than a dozen other Democrats.

The bill is unlikely to make it through a House and Senate controlled by Republicans who have long opposed legislative efforts targeting Citizens United.

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.