Left-wing foundation influence disclosed among FCC rule-change petitioners

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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The Campaign Legal Center and the Sunlight Foundation last week supported the FCC’s proposed requirement for full disclosure of broadcast campaign ad funding. Both organizations acknowledge recent funding from prominent progressive foundations while either publishing research in support of the FCC’s proposed rule change or actually petitioning the FCC for the change.

The Sunlight Foundation in 2010 received $852,546 from the Knight F0undation, a major donor to progressive causes. In 2009, the FCC commissioned a study from Knight to assess the information needs of certain communities. Published in June 2011, the study advocates for the broadcast ad rule change proposed by the FCC.

Other traditionally liberal foundations have also contributed to the Sunlight Foundation. In 2011, Sunlight received $300,000 from the George Soros-funded Open Society Foundation, $152,500 from Pew Charitable Trusts and $40,000 from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. A year earlier, Sunlight received $1 million from the Rockefeller Family Fund, a $300,000 Ford Foundation grant and a $300,000 donation from the Foundation to Promote Open Society, another Soros-related philanthropy.*

The Campaign Legal Center, which is also advocating for the proposed change at the FCC to require full disclosure of the funding behind broadcast political ads, received funding from the Benton Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Media Democracy Fund, the Open Society Institute, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Proteus Fund, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Rockefeller Family Fund, all of which are regular contributors to organizations working to advance liberal agendas.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, for example, contributed $15,000 in February 2011 to the Media Access Project (MAP) to “seek the adoption of Federal Communications Commission rules that would require sponsors of political commercials to identify the true source of their funding.” MAP filed a petition with the FCC in late March 2011 to promote corporations’ full disclosure of campaign ad funding.

Commenting on the FCC’s recent vote in a statement last week, MAP Senior Vice President Andrew Jay Schwartzman wrote, “Today’s action makes useful information available, and makes it much more accessible to the public,” said Schwartzman. “Much more needs to be done, and the public is counting on the Chairman’s assurances that the Commission will move quickly to complete its newly initiated proceedings.”

Schwartzman added that the action had taken “too long to get this far.”

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This article has been updated to clarify that Pew Charitable Trusts has not donated to specifically FCC-related projects.