Watchdogs File FCC Complaints Against TV Stations Refusing to Identify Michael Bloomberg as True Funder of Super PAC Ad Campaign
Today, the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause and the Sunlight Foundation filed complaints at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) against 18 television stations in 7 markets across 4 states that incorrectly identified Independence USA PAC as the “true sponsor” of political advertisements, when in fact the true funder of the PAC is Michael Bloomberg. On November 19, 2015, the groups warned the stations by letter that they were in violation of the Communications Act and FCC regulations and should identify Bloomberg as the sponsor on all future broadcasts of Independence USA ads. Since none of the stations agreed to change their sponsorship identification after receiving the letters, the groups are filing complaints against each of them. The complainants are represented by the Institute for Public Representation of Georgetown University Law Center.
“Broadcasters across the nation receive a massive windfall from election advertising. They should be held accountable when they allow political advertisers to hide the true identities of the deep-pocketed funders behind them,” said Meredith McGehee, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director. “These stations were warned that they were in clear violation of the law but have continued to cash the checks and run the ads for Independence USA PAC without identifying Michael Bloomberg as the group’s sole funder. The identity of those paying to air television ads seeking to influence election outcomes is vital information to voters. The law of the land requires that those sponsors be clearly identified.”
The Communications Act and the FCC’s sponsorship identification rules require broadcasters to go beyond simply naming the entity that paid for an ad and to disclose the “true identity” of the sponsor of the ad. In the case of Independence USA PAC, the Super PAC acts essentially as a personal advertising arm for Mr. Bloomberg, yet the stations failed to fully and fairly inform the public about who was attempting to influence them despite being given easily-accessible, publicly-available information, including Federal Election Commission filings regarding Mr. Bloomberg’s financing of the ads. Under the Communications Act, broadcasters are required to “exercise reasonable diligence” to obtain the information needed for proper sponsorship identification.
See below for the list of stations and links to complaints filed.