GOP drops effort to block FCC on campaign ads

Friday, June 15, 2012, Vol. 36, No. 24

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans controlling the House on Wednesday dropped an effort to block the Federal Communications Commission from implementing new rules requiring TV stations to disclose online information about political ad buys by candidates, political parties and outside groups.

The FCC adopted the rule in April over protests from the nation's broadcasters, who especially objected to having advertising rates disclosed online. The information is already publicly available, but only if one visits a TV station in person to examine it.

Democrats strongly opposed to efforts to block the new disclosure rules, and picked up support from outside watchdog groups. That put Republicans on the defensive over appearing to favor keeping information regarding who's paying for political ads from voters. And, since the effort was unlikely to become law before the election, there was little reason for Republicans to push the matter.

The effort to block the FCC rule came during consideration of a bill providing financing for the agency. Missouri GOP Rep. Jo Ann Emerson said Republicans were dropping the effort to block the rules in deference to protests from Democrats. Democratic support is essential if the measure is to pass the full House.

"It is obvious what this is all about and it is embarrassing, frankly. .It looks like you are trying to cover up the fact that these fat cats are coming into these elections and they don't want their names known," Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., said during earlier debate on the measure.

The FCC voted along party lines to require affiliates of the four major networks in the 50 largest TV markets to post the political information online during this election cycle. All stations would have to report such information online in the 2014 election cycle.

Republicans had sided with broadcasters, who argued that putting the information online would be costly. Democrats countered that it's actually easier than printing paper copies, filing them and making them available upon request.