As you may have heard, outside spending has already reached record levels in the current election cycle, more than doubling what was spent as of the same date in 2008. While FCC rules require television and radio broadcasters to maintain public records of all political ads purchased, currently citizens must actually go to the stations to physically sift through the files in order to learn who is spending money on the ads.
So, when the FCC announced an initiative back in April to provide online access to political spending records, you probably thought everyone’s reaction would be “hey, no-brainer, sounds like a perfectly reasonable thing to do.” Well, you’re pretty naive, aren’t you? Yes, you are. Yesterday, a House subcommittee voted to defund the FCC initiative with a provision inserted into the financial services appropriations bill stating that no funds from the appropriations bill may be used by the FCC to put the political files online.
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), the chair of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, sponsored the bill, which passed the panel by voice vote yesterday. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) led the effort against the bill, though his efforts failed along party lines, with four Democrats voting in favor of the FCC initiative and eight Republicans voting against it in the closed door hearing.
Serrano reports that the Republicans’ argument against the utterly sensible-seeming initiative during the closed-door hearing was that there was no reason to put the files online since people can just schlep to the stations and look the information up themselves. Apparently, Emerson and other Republicans contended that digitizing the files rather than physically storing the paper files would somehow be inefficient and cost more money.
Rep. Serrano – and most human beings living in the year 2012 – believe otherwise. “It’s cheaper these days to go digital than to keep paper files,” Serrano said. Indeed, in promoting the initiative, the FCC reported that that it took staffers 61 hours to obtain information from eight local TV stations in Baltimore, with a copying bill of $1,700.
According to Adweek, though, it was Rep. Emerson who grilled FCC chairman Julius Genachowski during a March 2012 hearing as to why the FCC could possibly want the files available online. ”Why do you care about this?” she asked. “You have more important things to worry about. Why in the world is this a big priority?” A little defensive there, aren’t we, Jo Ann?
So why are Rep. Emerson and the other panel Republicans so against this bill, when clearly it would make the process more efficient and increase transparency in a non-partisan fashion? The Sunlight Foundation, an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting government transparency, has reported that Emerson’s office had not responded to phone calls and an email asking why the measure was put forward (You guys, maybe snail mail? The lady obviously doesn’t like the internets).
Rep. Serrano is also stumped. He says that he usually can understand the other side’s political or philosophical reasons for a particular piece of legislation, but not this time. “This one, I scratch my head,” he said.
And so, The Daily Dolt has conducted its own research into what, exactly, Rep. Emerson is hiding. What could possibly be so unflattering to the Representative that she would go to these lengths to conceal the damaging documents? Oh, right, THIS:
Ohhhhh, so this is what she’s hiding. To be fair, if we were ever caught wearing an outfit as hideous as that, we’d probably spend all our time trying to conceal it, too.
Oh, Jo Ann. Really? We realize you’re from Missouri, but come on. Where does one even get a skirt like that? You’re a Congresswoman of the United States of America, not a sewing tutor at the local JoAnn Fabrics store in Joplin. Get it together.
Photo attribution: USACE/flickr
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