Overnight Tech: Dems step up calls to reveal political ad donors

LEDE: House Democrats aren't backing down in their push to get the FCC to compel political advertisers to name the major donors behind their spots.

One hundred-and-sixty-eight House Democrats -- almost the entire Caucus -- are signed onto a letter led by House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Anna Eshoo (Calif.) and Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthOn the Money — Student borrowers stare down rising prices More than 30 million families to lose child tax credit checks starting this weekend On The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood MORE (Ky.) urging FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to compel broadcasters to make advertisers identify the donors behind political ads.


They argue that the commission has the authority to do so as a result of rules requiring disclosure of the identity of ad sponsors. But the commission currently only requires them to identify the person with "editorial control" over the ad -- which allows the disclosure to include the group behind the ad, which may not have to identify its donors.

"In the new era of non-disclosing political organizations with intentionally opaque names, this interpretation is woefully out of date," the lawmakers said. "While a non-disclosing organization may in fact have had editorial control over the advertisement, the true sponsors of the advertisement are those who contributed the money to pay for it."

Read the letter here. Commission spokesperson Kim Hart says they have received the message and will review the matter.

REALITY CHECK: Next week, the commission is going to vote on a item requiring cable and satellite TV companies to post their "public file" -- which includes information on political advertisements -- online. But beyond that, it seems unlikely that Wheeler will take radical action on the disclosure issue. Last May, he said that the commission had more pressing matters to consider, and the agency's schedule remains busy.

TECH FELLOWS GOING TO CONGRESS: A new program that places people with tech backgrounds in congressional offices has selected its first two fellows. The fellowship, funded through the Open Technology Institute, chose JC Cannon, who founded a privacy consulting firm, and John Costello, an analyst at the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis. The fellows will now interview to see where they will be placed. 

INTERNET ASSOCIATION GETS IN ON PATENT CASE: The Internet Association, a tech lobbying group, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Supreme Court in relation to a case that the group warned has the potential to give more leverage to so-called patent trolls. The case focuses on whether courts can hand out "enhanced" patent infringement damages in more circumstances, providing, what the group calls, "yet another potent weapon to the patent trolls' already extensive arsenal."

CHARTER MERGER POLL:  Charter is turning to polling in its bid to win regulatory approval of its planned acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. It paid for a poll produced by Morning Consult that found people are more likely to approve the deal after finding out that Netflix supports the merger and that the company does not have data caps or long-term contracts. The poll, however, did not ask the baseline question of whether people support the deal. 

WAXMAN, OTHERS CLEARED TO LOBBY: Former Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who used to lead the Energy and Commerce Committee, is one of the many lawmakers who is now able to lobby his former colleagues after retiring at the end of 2014. The one-year lobbying "cooling off" period is over. Waxman is already registered to represent T-Mobile and others. The Hill's Megan Wilson talked to him and others. 

UBER, MEET BIBI: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland today, according to his office's Twitter account. He also met with Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman.


At 3 p.m., Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and others will participate in a Twitter townhall about the country's digital divide. 


The American Civil Liberties Union is taking its privacy fight to the states. 

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the National Football League's Dallas Cowboys to fly drones "to conduct aerial data collection, videography and imaging of its training facilities." 

More than 50 digital rights and consumer groups are pressing the Federal Communications Commission to start drafting Internet privacy rules "as quickly as possible."

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is preparing legislation to help combat the massive online propaganda machine the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) uses to recruit foreigners.

House Democrats escalated a push on Wednesday to get the Federal Communications Commission to do more to reveal the sponsors of political advertisements.


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