White House may move on political ad disclosure


The Supreme Court opened the doors for new levels of corporate and non-profit spending on political ads in the Citizens United case, and Democrats were unable to get a bill to apply a few financing disclosure band-aids past a filibustering Republican minority in the Senate. Now the White House is looking at whether an executive order can provide a band-aid that legislators could not.

The proposal being looked at by the administration of Barack Obama is aimed at corporations that do business with the government. Simply put, if a company wants to accept a government contract, it must disclose any donations they make to organizations that run political advertising.

Supporters of the administration policy being considered believe it will increase transparency and take suspicion of politics being behind decisions on the awarding of government contracts.

Opponents say that putting such a requirement into the process would in fact add a political dimension to contract awards right at the outset.

Democrats have suspected they would be the targets of big money donors as a result of Citizens United, but have never had the kind of bullet-proof majority in the Senate to get rules like the one being considered by Obama passed, much less others that were part of the Disclose Act considered by Congress in 2010.

The White House is not the only wing of the administration that is seen as a possible venue to mute the effects of Citizens United.

Andrew Jay Schwartzman of watchdog Media Access Project has suggested that the FCC use its power to enforce advertising sponsor identification regulation to force the backers of political messages to come out of the shadows.

Schwartzman’s proposals have found a ready and willing admirer on the FCC’s 8th Floor in the person of Commissioner Michael Copps. Thus far we have not heard anybody else at the FCC weigh in on the topic, but with this push from the Obama administration, perhaps that will change at some point this year.

RBR-TVBR observation: It was unlikely that the Senate was going to get anything done in time to have any effect on the midterm elections last year. But this move by the Obama administration is taking place a year and a half ahead of the 2012 election. It stands a chance of having an effect, but only if it is able to stand at all. We will be watching closely to see if this issue heats up or fizzles over the summer.

What is your view on Obama’s move – Right – Wrong – or is it all about getting Re-Elected and using the system to Obama’s advantage.