Watchdogs Challenge Latest Attempt by Outside Group to Skirt Disclosure Laws


Today, the Campaign Legal Center, together with Democracy 21, filed comments urging the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to reject an attempt by America Future Fund (AFF) to avoid filing electioneering communications reports and disclosing donors for a series of proposed ads.  In Advisory Opinion Request 2012-19, AFF asks the agency whether eight submitted television advertisements would trigger the reporting requirements for electioneering communications.

“Electioneering communication” is a broadcast ad within a defined pre-election time frame that “refers to a clearly identified candidate for Federal office.”  An FEC regulation defines the phrase “refers to a clearly identified candidate” to mean: “[T]he candidate’s name, nickname, photograph, or drawing appears, or the identity of the candidate is otherwise apparent through an unambiguous reference. . . .”

Seven of AFF’s eight proposed ads identify President Obama without actually using the phrase “President Obama”—instead making repeated references to “the White House,” “the Administration,” or “Obamacare,” displaying images of the White House and in one instance even using a recording of President Obama’s voice.

“Although the proposed ads don’t include the words ‘President Obama,’ they nevertheless clearly identify President Obama using unambiguous references such as ‘the White House’ and ‘the Administration,’” said Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel.  “AFF is certainly free to air these ads, but the ads are ‘electioneering communications’ and must be reported to the FEC with disclosure of the sources of funds used to pay for the ads.”

To read the complaint, click here.