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Caleb Burns Comments on Proposal to Disclose Identity of Political Ad Donors

Communications Daily, Washington Internet Daily
April 23, 2014

Caleb P. Burns, a partner in Wiley Rein’s Election Law & Government Ethics Practice, was quoted today in a Communications Daily article about a proposal by former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) high-ranking officials that broadcasters should disclose the identity of the donors that fund nonprofit groups’ political advertisements.  The article also ran in Washington Internet Daily, a sister publication of Communications Daily.

Newton Minow and Henry Geller—who served as FCC chairman and general counsel, respectively, during the Kennedy administration—submitted a petition asking the agency to require the disclosure of political ad donors by way of sponsorship identification.  According to the article, current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will not likely take up the issue because it could provoke the ire of Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Burns said any opposition from nonprofit groups that buy political ads may “depend on how onerous the disclosure is.”

“The chief argument from the 501(c)(4) community is that disclosure has been used as a weapon for political retaliation,” Mr. Burns said.  “And if that disclosure is significant enough that it results in retaliation from elected officials or others, then they’ll be against it.”