CCP opposes FCC regulation of political ads

The Center for Competitive Politics came out today against a proposal by a telecommunications lobbying group to force onerous disclaimers for political ads.

The petition for a Federal Communications Commission rulemaking by the Media Access Project asks the FCC to rewrite longstanding regulations to force an unworkable disclosure standard on citizen groups.

“Supporters of broad campaign finance regulation in Congress failed to pass the DISCLOSE Act, the pro-regulation bloc at the FEC failed to impose a broad rulemaking to add disclosure regulations and now groups are seeking to impose these standards through the backdoor at the FCC,” said CCP President Sean Parnell.

In Jan. 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that the government could not prohibit the political speech of advocacy groups, companies or unions. The ruling did not affect disclosure laws. In response, pro-regulation Members of Congress attempted to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which would have banned the speech of many companies and imposed an onerous disclosure and disclaimer regime similar to the Media Access Project’s FCC proposal. Some FEC commissioners recently attempted to include new and intrusive disclosure regulations in the agency’s post-Citizens United rulemakings, but could not get a majority to support the dramatic expansion of disclosure requirements.

The proposed rule, which the Media Access Project filed Tuesday, would authorize the FCC to require television ads to list all individuals or entities that provide 25 percent or more of the funding for a political ad (one-third for radio ads). In addition, groups would be required to file a list of persons who provide 10 percent or more of the funds for a commercial with television stations.

“The rule is completely unworkable and would provide voters with clutter at best and misinformation at worst,” said CCP Vice President of Policy Allison Hayward. “The FCC should reject this proposal for junk disclosure.”

In essence, the FCC rule would require political groups running broadcast ads to commit disclosure fraud. Nearly all donors provide funding for general operations, not specific ads. This rule would force groups to arbitrarily pick out donors, who may have nothing to do with the editorial control of the ad, and cite them as the source of the funds for the ad. This phony disclosure adds nothing to political discourse and amounts to government dictation of political speech.

The Center for Competitive Politics is a nonpartisan, nonprofit group dedicated to protecting First Amendment political rights. CCP seeks to promote the political marketplace of ideas through research, litigation and advocacy.

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