Dem pressure hasn't swayed FCC on political ad disclosures

Strong pressure from Democrats has not persuaded the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take up a controversial proposal that would require some political TV ads to name the major individual donors behind them. 

In a letter made public on Tuesday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he understood that 168 House Democrats think he “should go farther” but gave no indication that he is willing to do so during an election year.  


“The fact that 170 members of Congress is a significant statement, the significance of which is not lost on me,” Wheeler wrote in response to a letter signed by all but 20 Democrats in the House. 

The letter was sent earlier this month but made public Tuesday night. 

Wheeler has said much of the same for the past year. Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthHouse Democrats plead with key committee chairman to allow remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic Kentucky Democrat: House lawmakers will not vote remotely during outbreak Dem Congressman: Coronavirus stimulus should be bigger than 2008 MORE (D-Ky.), who sponsors legislation on the issue, said he “certainly expected more than this,” referring to the letter as little more than a thank you note. 

Currently, FCC rules require super-PACs and other outside groups to include a sponsorship announcement at the beginning or end of a television ad that reveals the group that is funding it. But Democrats want the names of significant donors included on the screen.

Democrats say the current disclosure rules are based on a weak interpretation of the law. They say the sponsorship tags are of no real use to voters, who likely have no idea who is funding groups with generic names like Restore our Future, Priorities USA or Americans for Prosperity. 

Wheeler has defended his record on “expanding the public’s access to information about political advertising.”

He pointed to the FCC’s rules that now require the FCC to maintain an online database that includes information about ads run on broadcast TV, radio, cable and satellite.