Political TV advertising in the USA: scofflaw broadcasters hide the dark money of political influence

Nicko from the Sunlight Foundation writes, "Today, Sunlight Foundation and the Campaign Legal Center, represented by the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University Law Center, filed complaints at the Federal Communications Commission against 11 broadcasters in nine markets for failing to comply with the agency's political ad disclosure rules.

Broadcasters are required by law to keep information about political ads they air in their stations' public files. Sunlight and CLC found and documented several violations of these rules, and examples are included in the complaints."

In the wake of major Supreme Court decisions that changed the shape of campaign finance in the U.S., more and more money is flowing from outside groups who aren't required to file disclosures at the Federal Election Commission. This dark money, is often used to buy ads in support of or against candidates and issues. A recent study by the Wesleyan Media Project found that outside groups have sponsored 59 percent of television ads in the current election cycle. In some markets, outside groups have run 75 percent or more of the ads that have aired.

Often the only way to track this money, which is so obviously influencing our elections, is through the broadcasters' political files, which until last year, were kept only on paper, locked away in file cabinets.

The Sunlight Foundation was instrumental in getting the FCC to require broadcasters to put their files online, but even before that, we gathered files collected by volunteers from across the country and digitized them ourselves, creating Political Ad Sleuth – a searchable database of broadcasters' public and political files.

How TV stations are letting political advertisers play hide and seek [Kathy Kiely/Sunlight Foundation]

(Thanks, Nicko!)