Watchdogs File FCC Complaints Regarding Lack of Disclosure in Most Expensive House Race in History
Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and Issue One filed six complaints with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) against two Atlanta-based television stations in the aftermath of the special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, which was the most expensive U.S. House election in American history. Much of the battle was waged on the television airwaves, with several “dark money” nonprofits and super PACs spending millions of dollars airing TV advertisements in the district. Some of the major organizations involved — including the Democratic-affiliated groups Patriot Majority USA and House Majority PAC, as well as the Republican-tied National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) — failed to properly disclose important information.
“Stations that air political ads have an obligation to ensure that viewers have relevant information about who is attempting to influence their vote," said Brendan Fischer, director of federal and Federal Election Commission reform at CLC. "The FCC must take action to protect the public’s right to basic information about the political ads that flooded Georgia’s airwaves during this year’s special elections.”
“Voters have a right to know who exactly is behind the advertisements that can strongly influence their vote,” said Meredith McGehee, chief of policy, programs and strategy at Issue One. “Without a firm commitment to transparency by the FCC — a principle both Democrats and Republicans agree on — we risk losing the openness and accountability that ensure a functioning democracy.”
Any ad that “communicates a message relating to any political matter of national importance” must be placed into a broadcaster’s political file, and the advertiser must disclose who is behind the ad, as well as list the executive board members, or highest-ranking officers, of the sponsoring group. The legal definition of “a political matter of national importance” includes any election to federal office, so the advertisements run during Georgia’s 6th Congressional District special election clearly qualify.
At least two separate Georgia television stations, WPCH-TV and WSB-TV, failed to require that Patriot Majority USA, House Majority PAC and the NRCC accurately and completely fill out the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) agreement form. On their NAB agreements, the groups falsely claimed the advertisements were not “a political matter of national importance,” which meant the groups failed to disclose required information such as the office, candidate and/or issue in question. It is time to set the record straight.
The station WPCH-TV failed to disclose information in a political ad sponsored by Patriot Majority USA.