Roll Call: Senate Rules Chairman Is Cool to Campaign Ad Bill

Alan Ota
Oct 23, 2017
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Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Richard C. Shelby gave a cool reception Thursday to a bipartisan draft bill disclosed the same day that would require large online platforms to collect and disclose data about the buyers of political advertising.

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Lawrence Noble, senior director and general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan research and litigation group specializing in elections, praised language in the bill that would require online platforms to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities aren’t buying political advertising to influence American voters.

Noble said the language would provide data that could be used by candidates, parties or even private individuals to investigate suspicious ads. He said the proposal would keep in place the allowance for charities such as so-called 501(c)(4) groups to keep donors confidential, a provision that would enable groups to receive foreign funds and use it to buy political advertising without identifying the foreign donors.

“If questions arise about whether the 501(c)(4) is a front for foreign funding, that’s another issue,” said Noble, former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission. “But this bill provides a tool — with the public file — to at least know who is buying the ad and so you can begin to look into any allegations that the buyer is a front for foreign money.”

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