Disclosure of funding of political advertising has become a hot topic in Congress. And Republican Senator Ted Cruz made sure that FCC Chairman nominee Tom Wheeler knew that his fellow GOP members want the FCC to keep its hands off any attempts at imposing disclosure requirements on such ads."This is the one issue that has in my opinion the potential to derail your nomination," he said.
Cruz Warns Wheeler On Political Ads
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) asked FCC chairman nominee Tom Wheeler to submit in writing whether he believes the FCC has the authority to require political TV and radio advertisers to disclose the source of their funding — and then warned Wheeler that he would jeopardize his confirmation if he says that he does.
“This is the one issue that has in my opinion the potential to derail your nomination,” he told Wheeler during his confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Commerce Committee.
“We’ve seen with the IRS what can happen when members of Congress urge the executive branch to begin playing politics,” Cruz said, referring to the IRS’s apparently targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny in determining whether they should be declared tax exempt.
Disclosure of funding of political advertising has become a hot topic in Congress. “There are few if any issues that inspire more passionate, partisan divisions in this body,” Cruz said.
Having failed to pass a law requiring disclosure, some congressional Democrats have begun pressing the FCC to do it through rulemaking, insisting that the agency has the authority.
Republicans have pushed back, believing, in Cruz’s words, disclosure requirements in law or FCC rules are “unconstitutional and bad policy.”
In an April 10 letter to the FCC, Cruz, along with the other 10 Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), cautioned the agency to steer clear of the issue.
“The FCC has a long tradition of being nonpartisan, but if it were to attempt to establish through rulemaking what Congress has declined to act upon, it would seriously undermine the integrity of the commission and imperil its independence. Political issues should be left to Congress.”
During the hearing, Wheeler avoided taking a stand on the issue.
“This is an issue that I look forward to learning more about,” Wheeler told Cruz. “But I do not miss the expressions on both sides of this as to the strong feelings. I know this is an issue of tension.”
He will likely have to do better than that in his written response to Cruz.