FCC admonishes TV stations for political ad non-disclosures following Issue One & Campaign Legal Center complaints

Following complaints filed by Issue One and the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) admonished two television stations this week for not properly disclosing important information on paid political advertising that ran during the 2016 special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, which was the most expensive U.S. House election in American history.

“We are pleased that the Federal Communications Commission found these violations and admonished stations that failed to provide voters with the information they are entitled to by law. As the law makes clear, voters have the right to know who is behind the paid ads that seek to influence their decisions on election day,” said Issue One Executive Director Meredith McGehee. “The FCC should not narrow the regulations governing disclosure of political ads on TV, a proposal raised recently. Weakening of current disclosure standards would be misguided, especially at a time when dark money groups are spending millions on political ads and trying to hide who is paying for those ads.”

“Stations that air political ads have an obligation to ensure that viewers have relevant information about who is attempting to influence their vote,” said Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at CLC. “The FCC should continue to uphold the public’s right to basic information about the content of ads and the wealthy special interests that fund them.”

Any ad that “communicates a message relating to any political matter of national importance” must be placed into a broadcaster’s political file, and the advertiser must disclose who is behind the ad, as well as list the executive board members, or highest-ranking officers, of the sponsoring group. The legal definition of “a political matter of national importance” includes any election to federal office, so the advertisements run during Georgia’s 6th Congressional District special election clearly qualify. Groups that failed to disclose properly included Democratic-affiliated groups Patriot Majority USA and House Majority PAC, as well as the Republican-tied National Congressional Committee (NRCC). (Read the original complaints here.)

Issue One is a leading crosspartisan political reform group in Washington that unites Republicans, Democrats, and independents in the movement to fix the broken political system. The Campaign Legal Center is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. that holds candidates and government officials accountable regardless of political affiliation.