In a push to expose the billionaires trying to influence elections, advocacy groups filed complaints Thursday against 18 television stations that aired ads for the Independence USA PAC.
That political action committee, according to the complaints, is entirely funded by billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The television stations should have required that the ads identify Bloomberg by name, the advocacy groups argued.
The groups—Common Cause, the Sunlight Foundation, and the Campaign Legal Center—didn’t file their complaints with the Federal Election Commission, the usual agency for regulating campaign finance issues. Instead, the groups are urging the Federal Communications Commission to aggressively use its power over the nation’s airwaves to make political spending more transparent.
“It’s past time for the FCC to enforce the law and require the disclosure demanded by the Communications Act,” former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, now an adviser for Common Cause, said in a statement. “As we enter an election year, Americans have a particularly vital interest in knowing who is behind efforts to influence our votes.”
The Communications Act requires that all TV and radio ads (commercial and political) reveal the “true identity” of their sponsors. The transparency groups have been pressing the FCC to use that provision to require TV stations to identify the major donors behind political ads, and not just the vague name of the donor’s PAC.