October 19, 2017

Kilmer & Coffman Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Cast Light on Where Online Political Advertising Comes From

Washington D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Mike Coffman (R-CO) introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill to ensure online political advertisements are better monitored by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The legislation would have the FEC enact rules for online advertisements similar to what is in place for television, radio, and satellite ads so it’s clear to the public where they are coming from.

The Honest Ads Act (H.R. 4077) is a companion to a bill being introduced today by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Warner (D-VA), and John McCain (R-AZ) following revelations that a Russian company purchased upwards of 3,000 political advertisements on Facebook in an effort to influence the 2016 Presidential election. The bill would require large digital platforms to maintain a publicly available file of all requests to run advertisements that cost more than $500 within a calendar year.

Included in the file would be a description of the audience the advertisements target, the number of views generated, the dates and times of publication, the rates charged, and the contract information of the purchaser. It would also direct digital platforms to take measures to ensure that foreign nationals – whether directly or indirectly – are not purchasing advertisements in American elections. 

“The American people deserve to know who is trying to influence our elections,” said Kilmer. “Our bipartisan bill makes sure our laws are as up to date as the latest technology, and makes it harder for foreign actors to use the internet to attack our democracy.”

“I think it’s common sense that paid political advertising should be subject to the same disclosure requirements regardless of what form it takes.  The American people deserve to know who’s paying for the ads they see on the Internet just as much as they do the ads they see on TV or hear on the radio,” said Coffman.

“Reps. Kilmer and Coffman have stepped up to the plate to combat foreign interference in American politics. This bipartisan, bicameral measure reflects the seriousness of this threat. This narrowly-tailored legislation applies standards to online ads that are similar to those covering political ads on broadcast television and radio. This Honest Ads Act provides important tools to address foreign influence in U.S. politics and should serve as the basis for hearings in the U.S. House. 

Addressing the problem of foreign interference in U.S. politics requires Democrats and Republicans working together in both chambers of Congress,” said Issue One Chief of Policy, Programs and Strategy Meredith McGehee.

“The 2016 elections exposed glaring holes in our ability to police foreign intervention in US elections, and this bill is an appropriate, bipartisan disclosure remedy,” said Trevor Potter, president of Campaign Legal Center (CLC), and a former Republican Chairman of the Federal Election Commission. “Voters have a right to be fully informed about who is trying to influence their vote, particularly foreign powers whose motives are contrary to American interests. This bill gives voters, journalists and law enforcement officers important tools to help root out illegal foreign activity. The transparency this bill aims to provide in the 2018 elections and beyond will protect and enhance the integrity of our elections, which are the most fundamental component of American self-governance.”

The legislation is supported by a number of organizations that advocate for increased transparency in our political system including Issue One, Campaign Legal Center, the Sunlight Foundation, Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, and Public Citizen.