Compromise in sight on some regulation of online political ads
Glimmers of rare bipartisan consensus appeared Thursday at the Federal Election Commission, where the panel's two Republicans joined the Democratic chairwoman in proposing regulation of political advertisements online.
At least at first blush, there seemed to be plenty of room for compromise between the freshly unveiled GOP plan and the one unveiled earlier in the week by Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub.
The main disagreement looks to be whether to exempt any sorts of campaigns from having to disclose their identities.
The potential for alignment became evident at the monthly meeting of the commission, where the usual partisan divisions about how to govern campaign finance have been compounded by a need for unanimity on the panel — where two seats have been vacant throughout the Trump administration and a majority is required for action.
Weintraub has revived a proposal, which died at the commission last year, that would require the financing of political ads to be disclosed when they're posted on Facebook and other social media sites. Her plan has already been endorsed by Steven Walther, who identifies as Independent but usually sides with the chairwoman.
The aim is to promote transparency and combat the sort of hacking Russia was able to execute with anonymity during the 2016 campaign. While the FEC is considering doing so by regulation, a bipartisan effort to do something similar through legislation has stalled in the face of Trump administration opposition.
The GOP commissioners, Matthew Petersen and Caroline Hunter, unveiled a similar plan. No vote was taken, but all sides signaled an eagerness to bridge the differences – especially on whether such disclosures should be required even on the tiniest of display ads.
"We're not on the same page yet, but obviously I hope we can be on the same page," Weintraub said. "We need to resolve this. It's really important and there's a strong demand for this. Advertising is moving more and more to the digital realm so it's critical to set standards and get rulemaking done."
The main difference between the two proposals is how disclaimers should be displayed and whether some exceptions should be allowed. Weintraub wants the funding source clearly displayed on ads. But Petersen and Hunter think there should be more flexibility for small Internet ads that don't have the space to accommodate the source's name.
In cases where the ad is too small for a legible disclosure, the Republicans allow for one-step-removed navigation to a secondary site with more funding information. But Weintraub was skeptical whether that would be too big a loophole, because too many people would not be bothered to take that extra step.
The Republicans say the exception is the only way to allow campaigns to buy really small ads, which are often favored by underfinanced candidates and small-time advocacy campaigns.
The commissioners said they would keep negotiating in hopes of an agreement by the time of the panel's next meeting in three weeks.
"Being an optimist, I don't think the differences are unbridgeable — we can find a way forward," Petersen said.
Remember that tweet exchange in May between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the one where they discussed bipartisan legislation to ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists?
To recap: Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support for legislation banning the practice in light of a report by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which found that nearly 60 percent of lawmakers who recently left Congress had found jobs with lobbying firms. Cruz tweeted back, extending an invitation to work on such a bill. Ocasio-Cortez responded, "Let's make a deal."
The news cycle being what it is, it's easy to forget how the media jumped on the idea of the Texas Republican and the New York Democrat finding common ground on a government ethics proposal. Since then, we've collectively moved on — but not everyone forgot.
The government reform group RepresentUs recently drafted a petition asking Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez to follow through on their idea, gathering more than 8,000 signatures.
But in general, young adults have a lot more trust issues than their elders
Sixty percent of young adults in the United States believe other people "can't be trusted," according to a recent Pew Research survey, which found that younger Americans were far more likely than older adults to distrust both institutions and other people. But adults of all ages did agree on one thing: They all lack confidence in elected leaders.
While united in a lack of confidence, the cohorts disagreed on whether that's a major problem. The study found that young adults (ages 18-29) were less likely than older Americans to believe that poor confidence in the federal government, the inability of Democrats and Republicans to work together, and the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups were "very big problems."