The Missing Structural Debate: Reforming Disclosure of Online Political Communications
Pichaya P. Winichakul
The Federal Election Commission (FEC), the nation’s campaign finance regulator, is charged with administering one of America’s fundamental anti-corruption measures: disclosure and disclaimer requirements for political communications. The FEC has come under attack for failing to enforce its disclosure laws against the Internet Research Agency, the Russian-based organization recently indicted for meddling in American elections through use of online political propaganda. Had the FEC properly enforced the disclosure laws, it could have armed the millions of Americans who viewed Internet Research Agency advertisements with critical information to take to the polls. Efforts to address this campaign finance failure have coalesced around the Honest Ads Act, a bill that proposes substantive changes to the campaign finance disclosure rules. This Note argues that the Honest Ads Act mischaracterizes the problem that led to the FEC’s regulatory failure, and offers another explanation: the structural problems that have led to agency inaction and capture. This Note explores FEC inaction and capture and begins to develop a legislative alternative to the Honest Ads Act.