Democratic senators back FCC rule that could shed light on campaign ads

Eight Democratic senators have given their "full support" to a proposed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule that could force more disclosure regarding political ads.

In a letter sent Wednesday to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the senators said they support the proposal that would have television broadcasters post online their files that detail information on who is paying for ads.

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"We want to express our full support of the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed rule to have broadcast stations make political files publicly available online and we urge you to implement these proposed rule changes as soon as possible. With campaign season in full swing and new Super PACs springing up weekly, the public must have access to information about who is funding these ads," the letter says.

The letter was signed by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

Broadcasters currently have to make these files available to the public, but only in paper form. Under the proposed rule, the files would be hosted on a FCC-run website.

"The information in these files should be available in an online, searchable database, and disclosures should include information about the people and organizations that purchase political advertisements," the letter says.

The National Association of Broadcasters has said the proposed rule would be too burdensome for TV stations to comply with. Watchdog groups have backed the rule because it would provide more information about political ads during campaign season.

The proposed rule is might not reveal new information about who is funding political ads because the ad sponsor's name may not disclose all of its backers.