The Public File: Congressional Republicans Attempt to Block FCC Rule
A federal effort to bring about more transparency in political television advertising is under attack by Republicans in Congress.
In April, after much pushback from broadcasters, the Federal Communications Commission passed a new rule requiring TV stations to put political ad information online. The stations already are required to maintain a so-called public file and make it available for inspection during normal business hours. But the online requirement aimed to make it easier for people to view the records and to shed more light on the influence of campaigns and outside groups on elections, both national and local.
But a House committee this week passed a bill striking down the rule. The National Association of Broadcasters argued that it would be too expensive for local stations to create and maintain an online system. Broadcasters have also sued to block the rule.
It's possible the requirement will still survive. There are many more steps in the administrative and congressional process.
But in the meantime, Civil Beat has been visiting local Honolulu TV stations each week and publishing our findings in a series called The Public File.
This week's analysis of local public files show that Mufi Hannemann has purchased more than $40,000 in ads this month, the largest amount spent by a political candidate this week. The former Honolulu mayor is hoping to represent Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District.
Hannemann spent $10,200 for 14 spots on KHON for his 30-second ads. He paid another $19,350 for 63 spots on KITV and $5,775 for 26 spots on KFVE. He also spent $8,275 on KHNL for 47 spots. All of the ads have been airing this week or will run next week. In the past two weeks, Hannemann has spent almost $75,000 on ads.
His Democratic rival Tulsi Gabbard still has not bought any ads. But a mainland PAC, VoteVets.org, is still shelling out big bucks on her behalf. Last week, the group committed to spending another $50,000 to keep its ads on air. This week the public file shows that the group spent more than $30,000 to run her ads during the same time period as Hannemann has purchased.
The veterans' organization has already spent more than $75,000 on TV ads for Gabbard. As of Wednesday, VoteVets.org spent $6,000 for 19 spots on KITV, $2,850 for 10 spots on KFVE and $1,420 for four spots on KHNL.
In the Honolulu mayoral race, Peter Carlisle has picked up a few more spots this week. That's in addition to the $130,000 he has already spent on ads through the primary. He spent $1,200 for nine spots on KFVE, which have been running this week.
This week, candidates and PACs spent a combined $74,980. Last week's sum was $283,932.
No records of new ad buys were found on Oceanic Time Warner's online database.
So far, the public files show at least $1,246,000 has been spent on political television ads. More than 50 percent — or $756,000 — was spent by mainland PACs.
As the election season heats up, political candidates and other groups will continue to spend big money on TV ads.
By law, television stations are required to make political ad contracts accessible to public. To make these files more easily accessible, Civil Beat will continue to visit local TV stations weekly.
DISCUSSION: What do you think about what the campaigns and PACs have spent on advertising so far?
Here are this week's spending reports. They are organized by candidate and independent expenditure group: