Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said Friday that if the FCC
were to use its sponsorship ID enforcement powers to require on-air
identification of the people who are actually paying for political commercials,
he would go "nuclear," confirmed an aide.
"He would be calling for the football to get the
[nuclear] codes," said the staffer. That declaration came in a talk Friday
sponsored by POLITICO Pro.
Walden, who is chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee, said that he did not want the FCC regulating
speech, according to an attendee. In this case, the reference was to a petition
to the FCC filed by Media Access Project asking it to require on-air
identification of the people who are paying for political commercials or issue
The petition is partly in response to the Citizen's
United decision by the Supreme Court, which allowed companies and unions to
directly fund campaign ads. Democrats in Congress tried to toughen disclosure
laws in response, but the bills did not pass.
"The FCC has repeatedly said that members of the public
are entitled to know by whom they are being persuaded, and it has stressed that
this is especially important in the case of political messages,"
said MAP's Andrew Schwartzman. "This petition simply seeks to update
the FCC's rules to fulfill its Congressional mandate."
Commissioner Michael Copps supports changes to the
sponsorship rules. He told a C-SPAN audience this week that if you have an ad
on TV paid for by "Citizens For Spacious Skies and Amber Waves of
Grain," citizens ought to know it if was really paid for by a chemical
company refusing to clean up a toxic dump. Copps said he was not trying to
cut off those acts, but that MAP was on the right track. "I think it is
time for this," he said.
Walden clearly does not, seeing it as an end-around after
Congress did not pass tougher on-air disclosure laws backed primarily by
The aide also said Rep. Walden's April 12 spectrum
hearing, which will be one of several, will be a broad one. It will almost
certainly include issues of spectrum hoarding, the meaning of
"voluntary" in voluntary incentive auctions, and more.
While spectrum is top of the list of Subcommittee issues,
the aide said Walden would likely turn next to FCC processes. "He will be
digging into FCC processes," he said.