Dems: Feds have authority to force super-PAC disclosure

The Democratic sponsor of a House bill to bring more transparency to campaign ads is pressing the Federal Communications Commission to act on its own if the legislation stalls. 

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), who introduced the bill Thursday, said it is critical for the FCC to use the power it already has.  

{mosads}”I would hope that this bill would get attention, and if it is not successful — this legislation — I would hope the FCC would look carefully at what it can do in its existing authority to provide transparency,” he told FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who was testifying at a committee hearing on an unrelated topic. 

The Keep Our Campaigns Honest (KOCH) Act, named after GOP mega-donors Charles and David Koch, is unlikely to advance in Congress, where Republicans control both chambers. That point was highlighted by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) who called Democrats hypocritical for knocking private citizens like the Koch brothers while sparing Wheeler, a public official. 

“So I guess it is better to attack a private citizen that goes about his business trying to make money than to attack someone who has entered public life,” he said, alluding to Democrats who had previously defended Wheeler against GOP attacks during the hearing. 

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), a sponsor of the bill, attempted to cut in on Pompeo’s criticism but was quickly rebuffed. 

Seventeen House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), unveiled the legislation that would force super-PACs and other outsides groups to disclose their major donors at the end of television ads. The legislation would require the FCC to update its “sponsorship identification” rules before the 2016 presidential election season. 

The lawmakers said the agency already has the power to force outside groups to disclose the information under the Communications Act. The Keep Our Campaigns Honest (KOCH) Act would force the update. 

“If they enact it, we’ll do it,” Wheeler said of the proposal, but he declined to say if the commission would consider acting on its own. 

The legislation was released an hour ahead of the unrelated FCC transparency hearing where Wheeler testified. Yarmuth and the ranking Democrat on committee, Rep. Frank Pallone (N.J.), both touted the bill during opening statements. 

Yarmuth quoted extensively from Chief Justice John Roberts as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who have both previously made statements in favor of disclosure requirements. 

“I’m very concerned about transparency at the FCC, but I’m also very concerned about transparency with the ads that fill our airwaves every election season,” Yarmuth said.  

Tags Federal Communications Commission John Yarmuth super-PAC Tom Wheeler
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