Liberal Group Wants FCC Crackdown on Political ‘Front’ Groups

Sometimes it seems like the laws that govern political advertising draw as much controversy as the ads themselves. Now, with the 2012 election not far off, one liberal group wants to start the debate all over again.  
On Tuesday, Media Access Project, a liberal group, asked the Federal Communications Commission to impose stricter disclosure rules regarding the money behind ads that run on radio and TV stations, which make up the lion’s share of political advertising.
MAP’s petition asks the FCC to require stations to identify on air any person providing 25 percent or more of the funds for the ad and list any persons providing 10 percent or more of the funds in the radio or TV station’s public file.
“The FCC has interpreted the law so that it has been possible for funders to hide behind ‘front’ groups,” said Andrew Schwartzman, MAP’s policy director. “This petition simply seeks to update the FCC’s rules to fulfill its congressional mandate.”
Among the examples cited in the MAP petition were Iowans for Responsible Government, which was funded by the Democratic Governors Association; Concerned Taxpayers of America, which was funded by one individual and one company; and the Ending Spending Fund, supported by one individual who spent $1 million.
The FCC’s current rules governing disclosure, which date back to 1979, require disclosure around who has editorial control over an ad, not who funds it.
Since the Supreme Court overturned a longstanding ban on political spending by corporations last year, “there has been a new wave in spending for political and issue advertisements by organizations which are not required to disclose the identities of their donors,” MAP wrote in its petition.
Many of those organizations, dubbed “super PACs (political action committees),” sprung up in the last election, contributing to a record-breaking year for spending on political advertising, which topped $4.5 billion, per PQ Media.