FCC’s Copps calls for authority to regulate campaign finance

In a Dec. 2 speech at the Columbia Journalism School, Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps suggested that the agency had authority to regulate campaign finance disclosure for independent political groups.

Copps, once a staffer for former Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.), is one of three Democrats on the five-person panel. He referred to independent political spending as “carpet-bombing” and an “undemocratic sin.” No other commissioner appears to have called for such expansive FCC authority over political regulation. The Federal Election Commission, of course, already has jurisdiction to enforce campaign finance laws.

Here’s a transcript of Copps’ remarks focusing on campaign finance regulation [starting at about 1:22 in the video clip]:

“Political advertising disclosure: When the accounting is completed from this last election cycle, as I said we’ll find that nearly $3 billion was spent on media advertising. We the people have no idea who paid for this political carpet-bombing. But we the people have a right to know who’s bankrolling these ads beyond that little line down there that has some wholly uninformative and vapidly group that appears on the screen, really hiding completely the identity of special interests who paid for the ad. And both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of undemocratic sin here. The FCC wonders, and worries legitimately, about the dangers of placing a bottle of Coke or a tube of toothpaste on an entertainment program without disclosing at the end of it who paid for the product’s placement. And that’s fine, and I favor that. But shouldn’t we be even more concerned when unidentified groups with off-screen agendas are attempting to buy election outcomes?

I propose that the FCC quickly determine the extent of its current authority to compel release of what interests are paying for this flood of anonymous political advertising,  and if we lack the tools that we need to compel disclosure, then let’s go ask for it.” [emphasis added]

The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and New York Times all covered Copps’ speech, but only the New York Times mentioned Copps’ campaign finance comments. The outlets all focused on Copps’ more high-profile comments about broadband regulatory authority.

[h/t Hot Air]

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.