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FCC Complaint Filed Over Michael Bloomberg-Financed Political Ads

Three public interest groups have filed an FCC complaint against 18 TV stations they say failed to disclose former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the true funder of a series of spots from his political action committee.

The complaint is the latest pressure on the FCC to take greater steps to require that political advertising include the source of of funding, rather than the often generic-sounding name of a political action committee.

In this case, the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause and the Sunlight Foundation identify spots from the Independence USA PAC, which is fully funded by Bloomberg. In one of their complaints, the groups said that they furnished WESH-TV in Daytona Beach, Fla., with information from the PAC’s homepage, showing that Bloomberg funded it, but the station declined to change the sponsorship identification. One of the ads targeted Pam Bondi, Florida’s attorney general, for her stance against environmental regulations.

The groups say that the Communications Act requires that stations “fully and fairly disclose the true identity” of an ad sponsor. They also say that the stations could have used “reasonable diligence” to identify him as the source of the funding, as it is available on the PAC’s website and via Federal Election Commission information.

“Disclosing only ‘Independence USA PAC’ leaves the public unaware that the group is furthering Michael Bloomberg’s political agenda and that he controls the message,” the groups said in their filing.

Georgetown University Law Center’s Andrew Jay Schwartzman, who has been working on the filing, said via email that notices were sent to about 100 stations “putting them on notice that Mayor Bloomberg has provided 100% of the funding of these ads and thus is their true sponsor.”

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