Elections 2010 |

New rules for political ads in the works

Changes in what political advertises have to disclose may be in the works, but they won't be coming soon - and probably not in time for this fall's midterm elections.

In a meeting yesterday, the California Fair Political Practices Commission discussed possible new transparency rules, including those for political ads online. Those currently don't require any sorts of disclosure of who's funding them.

They're also talking about requiring advertisers to disclose who's contributed to ads, even if the commercials don't explicitly advocate or oppose voting for an issue or candidate.

Right now, ads only fall under those regulations if they contain "magic words" like "vote for," "elect," "support," "vote against," "defeat," or "reject."

The commission is recommending requiring online ads and political Facebook pages to disclose their funders, exempting those who spend less than $1,000, as well as most political bloggers.

Members of the commission said that implementing the rules during the election season woud be a bad idea.

""Imposing new rules pre-election is bad policy," chairman Dan Schnur told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I recognize the undeniable inconvenience caused by necessary recalibration of campaign strategy."

Policymakers are still trying to figure out how to strike a balance in regulating the growing influence of the Web on politics, while recognizing its traditional role as a sphere of free speech.

Some experts have said that more regulations will make online sources more trustworthy.

A Sacramento Bee article quotes former Gavin Newsom campaign manager Eric Jaye as saying, "Requiring the campaigns to own this speech publicly will elevate the speech. It will hinder them from the ad hominem attack. It will create an additional barrier to a slanderous assault. That's ultimately why the commission is smart to move in this direction."

But others, including Bryan Merica, a coordinator of new media campaigns for the California Chamber of Commerce, worry about over-legislating.

The commission is due to re-examine the issues in October. In the meantime, you can read the issues presented at Thursday's meeting here.

Or watch some of the online-only ads created during this campaign, including Carly Fiorina's intentionally weird eight-minute portrayal of Barbara Boxer as a blimp, and the rather more conventional ad Boxer's campaign dropped today, blasting Fiorina's anti-abortion stance. (Both, incidentally, identify the source of their funding.)