The Public File: Who's Buying Political Ads in Hawaii

Want to know how campaigns and outside groups are using TV ads to influence Hawaii elections? Look no further than our version "The Public File."

By law, every local broadcast station is required to keep a public file with documents showing who's bought air time, when the ads will air and how much they paid.

It's an important transparency tool, especially in the wake of the Citizens United ruling allowing corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money for independent campaigns supporting or attacking candidates and issues.

The Federal Communications Commission recently ordered TV stations to begin posting political ad spending information online, beginning with the top 50 markets. Now, people have to visit each station and ask to see numerous individual files to find out.

But Hawaii is not a top 50 market — we're No. 71. That means our local stations, according to the FCC rule, can wait until July 1, 2014 to start posting the information online.

One company, Oceanic Time Warner Cable, has been posting political ad info online for the past few months. But none of Hawaii's local broadcasters — KITV, KHON, KGMB, KHNL, KFVE — make their information available online.

Each week, Civil Beat plans to visit the stations to obtain paper copies that we will scan in and put online. Ours is a local effort to "free the files" that is being replicated throughout the country.

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