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Yarmuth Introduces Bill to Require Disclosure in Campaign Ads

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3), member of the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee, introduced the Keeping Our Campaigns Honest Act.  The legislation would require disclosure of the donors behind Super PACs and 501(c)(4) organizations that are flooding the nation’s airwaves with anonymous ads. 

Currently, the FCC has the authority under the Communications Act to require on-air disclosure of the “true identity” of the people and groups buying ads.  However, today, mega-donors hide behind the innocuous and misleading titles of their front groups.  Yarmuth’s bill directs the FCC to use the agency’s existing authority in the Communications Act and update the sponsorship identification rules before the 2016 election season.

“The American people are owed a level honesty when it comes to identifying who is trying to influence their vote,” said Yarmuth. “So long as these individuals are allowed to continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars attempting to impact our elections and our democracy, they should also be required to step out into the light and let voters know just who they are.”

Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the full Committee, is co-sponsoring the legislation, along with Communications and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Representatives G.K Butterfield (D-NC), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Mike Doyle (D-PA), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), and Peter Welch (D-VT).

“For too long, mega-donors have been hiding behind innocuous and misleading front groups,” said Pallone.  “And this unprecedented secret spending threatens the very nature of our democracy.  Americans deserve to know who is using the public’s airwaves to influence political debates.”

The amount of political spending by organizations that do not disclose their donors has grown tremendously in recent years.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, these organizations spent $300 million during the 2012 election.  To put that in perspective, just six years earlier, they spent $5.2 million.

"Shining a light on dark money is the absolutely essential first step to reforming our media and democracy,” said Michael Copps, former FCC Commissioner and Common Cause Special Adviser.  “Common Cause salutes Congressman Yarmuth’s timely congressional leadership.  The FCC can give voters the transparency they deserve in plenty of time for the 2016 elections.”