Klobuchar has sent multiple letters urging the FEC to update regulations for online political advertising disclaimers and disclosure
In her most recent letter, Klobuchar urged the Commission to hold public hearings, noting she stands ready to testify at the FEC on the need to improve transparency and accountability
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee, today released the following after the FEC’s vote to move forward with rulemaking regarding disclaimers for online paid political ads. Klobuchar, who introduced the bipartisan Honest Ads Act in October, has repeatedly demanded the FEC take this important step towards transparency for online political ads.
“Today’s FEC vote represents a promising first step towards improving transparency and accountability for paid online political ads” Klobuchar said. “But, this step is not enough. Congress needs to pass my bipartisan Honest Ads Act to ensure that there are strong disclaimer and disclosure laws. We must ensure all political ads sold online are covered by the same rules as TV or radio stations – and they’re made public so Americans can see who is trying to influence them. We have less than a year until the next election, there is no time to wait.”
The announcement follows multiple letters from Klobuchar urging the Commission hold public hearings on and engage in rulemaking.
“The American people deserve and support greater transparency for online political advertising. According to a recent Marist poll, sixty-four percent of Americans support regulation of online political advertisements and seventy-eight percent want full disclosure about who paid for political commercials posted to social media platforms. The significant public support for greater transparency for online advertisements is also reflected in the thousands of responses the FEC received during the recent comment period,” Klobuchar’s letter reads. “The American public understands what is at stake if we do not take action. I respectfully request that the FEC move forward with proposed rulemaking and hold public hearings to consider the testimony of transparency experts, industry, and campaign finance experts. If given the opportunity, I stand ready to testify as well.”
The letter is available in its entirety below.
As Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee with oversight jurisdiction over federal elections, Klobuchar has introduced legislation to improve the security of U.S. election systems and make commonsense improvements to election administration. She and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced the bipartisan Stop Foreign Donations Affecting Our Elections Act to strengthen disclosure by requiring federal campaigns to use existing credit card verification protocols to help verify that online credit card donations come from U.S. sources. Klobuchar and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also introduced bipartisan legislation to help states block cyber-attacks, secure voter registration logs and voter data, upgrade election auditing procedures, and create secure and useful information sharing about threats. In June, Klobuchar introduced the Helping State and Local Governments Prevent Cyber Attacks Act to help combat foreign interference by providing state and local governments with the information and resources they need to keep our elections secure and improve voter confidence.
Dear Chairman Walther,
As the Commission considers important motions from members of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) regarding proposed rulemaking at the upcoming open meeting, I write to strongly urge you to hold public hearings on the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) REG 2011-02 regarding online advertising disclaimers and disclosure.
On October 13, 2011 the FEC published an AVPRM seeking comments regarding disclaimers for internet communications. The FEC did not take any subsequent action related to improving transparency for online advertisements. On October 18, 2016 following the news that Russian operatives purchased online political advertisements in order to influence the election, the FEC unanimously voted to re-open the comment period from 2011. That comment period closed on November 13 and reports indicate this is one of the largest public responses the FEC has ever received and the majority of comments urge the FEC to increase transparency and accountability for online political ads.
Following the comment period, Vice Chair Hunter and Commissioners Petersen and Goodman filed a public intent to make a motion for Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Disclaimers and Paid Internet and Digital Communications. Commissioner Weintraub also filed a public intent to propose a motion on the issue. This is a promising step and it is my sincere hope that the Commission moves forward on the motion. It is past time for the FEC to take action on this issue.
Since 2011, online political advertisements have dramatically increased. In the 2016 election, spending on digital advertising reached $1.4 billion, a 789 percent increase from the $159 million spent in 2012. In addition to the proliferation of online ads, the nature of the user experience has also changed. Users no longer have to actively seek information online, platforms and digital applications provide a stream of content where advertisements are highly targeted and exposure is difficult to evade.
A combination of statutes, FEC rules, and FCC rules currently create a robust disclaimer, disclosure, and public access framework for political advertisements disseminated by broadcast, cable, radio and satellite providers. However, there is a lack of clarity regarding online advertisements and digital platforms face significantly fewer obligations despite having a greater reach. The nation’s largest digital platform has 210 million American users, nearly ten times as large as the subscriber base of the largest cable or satellite provider.
The lack of transparency for online political advertisements has dangerous implications for our democracy. On September 6, Facebook disclosed that between June 2015 and May 2017, Russian entities purchased $100,000 in political advertisements, publishing roughly 3,000 ads linked to fake accounts associated with the pro-Kremlin Internet Research Agency. During a Judiciary Committee Hearing October 31, Facebook testified that Russian operatives published roughly 80,000 posts on its platform in an effort to influence the U.S. political system and those posts reached as many as 126 million Americans. Twitter was also used by the Russians to spread fake news and mislead Americans during the election. In September 2017, Twitter announced that it shut down 201 accounts linked to the same Russian operatives who posted ads on Facebook. Twitter also acknowledged that Kremlin backed RT spent $274,100 on Twitter ads in 2016. The actions taken by Russia were designed to spread misinformation, exploit our differences, and undermine our democracy.
The last election highlighted a significant national security vulnerability and if left unchecked, foreign adversaries will continue to exploit it. Former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, recently testified that Russia will continue to interfere in our political system, noting that “Russia is now emboldened to continue such activities in the future both here and around the world, and to do so even more intensely. The next federal election is less than a year away and the stakes are too high to delay action.
The American people deserve and support greater transparency for online political advertising. According to a recent Marist poll, sixty-four percent of Americans support regulation of online political advertisements and seventy-eight percent want full disclosure about who paid for political commercials posted to social media platforms. The significant public support for greater transparency for online advertisements is also reflected in the thousands of responses the FEC received during the recent comment period.
The American public understands what is at stake if we do not take action. I respectfully request that the FEC move forward with proposed rulemaking and hold public hearings to consider the testimony of transparency experts, industry, and campaign finance experts. If given the opportunity, I stand ready to testify as well.
Thank you for your attention and prompt response to this important matter.