Dems want public data on political ads

Three powerful congressional Democrats are putting pressure on the Federal Communications Commission to require that more companies post their records about political advertising online.

The FCC is currently weighing a request to require cable, satellite and radio stations to put their records online so that people can easily see which campaigns and groups are buying political ads on their airtime.

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Reps. Henry WaxmanHenry Arnold WaxmanThe Hill's Top Lobbyists 2021 Former lawmakers sign brief countering Trump's claims of executive privilege in Jan. 6 investigation Democrats call for oil company executives to testify on disinformation campaign MORE (D-Calif.) and Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHillicon Valley — Chinese disinformation accounts removed House passes bipartisan bills to strengthen network security, cyber literacy Democrats to target Section 230 in Haugen hearing MORE (D-Calif.) and Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNASA spacewalk delayed due to debris threat This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead Two trajectories to Mars by the 2030s MORE (D-Fla.) want the agency to get going with the process.

“The 2014 election is projected to be the most expensive midterm election cycle in U.S. history,” they wrote to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Thursday. “Given this trend, it’s imperative that the FCC expand its online filing requirement to cable and satellite operators, as well as broadcast radio licensees.”

Broadcast television stations are currently required to post online copies of the contracts they make to sell political ads, a move that has been cheered by transparency advocates.

The same rules don’t apply to cable or satellite companies, however, nor to broadcast radio stations. The companies do have to keep records about their ad sales but they aren’t required to post them online.

Earlier this year, some advocacy groups tried to change that by filing a petition with the FCC to write new rules.  

Disclosing more data about who buys political ads and making sure it is presented in an easy-to-search format is a “commonsense” step that would be good for journalists, lawmakers and the public, the three members of Congress wrote.