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Sunshine groups target TV stations over political ads

by Chris Casteel Published: May 1, 2014

WASHINGTON _ Two campaign watchdog groups are going after television stations around the country for not disclosing required information about political ads.
The Sunlight Foundation and the Campaign Legal Center filed complaints with the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday against 11 stations in North Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Colorado, Arizona, Minnesota and New Hampshire alleging that required information wasn’t disclosed about ads run by the stations.
According to the groups, the stations fell short of federal disclosure rules about issues of national importance and candidates identified in ads about those issues.
Public forms required to be kept by the stations failed to meet all the criteria, the groups’ complaints say.
For instance, the complaint against a station in Charlotte, North Carolina, says the station failed to disclose what issue was addressed in an ad sponsored by “Patriot Majority.”
Kathy Kiely, managing editor of Sunlight Foundation, said, “These files are often the only way we can track political activities and spending by dark money groups that aren’t required to disclose those activities with the Federal Election Commission.”
The Oklahoman ran into the same situation last week in trying to track a group running ads that mentioned U.S. Rep. James Lankford, an Oklahoma City Republican running for the U.S. Senate.
Public forms on file with the major network affiliates in Oklahoma City state that the ads do not communicate a message relating to any political matter of national importance, even though the ads are clearly about the Affordable Care Act.
If the stations state on the public forms that the ads address issues of national importance, more information is required: the issue, the candidate referenced in the ad and officers of the group sponsoring the ad.
The Oklahoma City station forms included none of that information about the Lankford ad.
Here’s a link to The Oklahoman’s story and one of the forms.
Interestingly, a form filed this week for the same group that ran the Lankford ad, Foundation for Economic Prosperity, has the box checked “Yes” for the question about whether ad addresses a political matter of national importance. But there is still no information on the form about the candidate identified or the foundation’s leaders.

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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