Sara Swann is a staff writer covering campaign finance and other reform issues. She previously reported on local and state government for The Daily Times on Maryland's Eastern Shore. She has also done money in politics reporting for the Center for Responsive Politics. Sara is an alumna of Syracuse University.
A Maryland law intended to prevent foreign election interference by regulating online political advertising has been struck down by a federal appeals court.
At a time when controlling the surge of misleading campaign spots on social media and news sites has proved easier said than done, Maryland was the first state to expand disclosure mandates. Its General Assembly enacted a law in time for the closing months of the 2018 midterm campaign requiring such platforms to publish information about ad purchases and keep records for the state to review.
But a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals says the law unconstitutionally singles out political expression for special scrutiny and promises a "chilling effect" on free speech. The unanimous ruling on Friday, upholding a federal trial judge's position, is the latest in a series of federal judicial decisions against efforts to regulate campaign financing.
How did American democracy get so broken and how can it be fixed?
One of the premier organizations focused on making governance across the United States work better, RepresentUs, sees educating the public on the state of dysfunction as a crucial first step — and using star power as the best way to draw eyeballs to a sometimes confusing and overwhelming topic.
So in time for Monday's international Anti-Corruption Day, as declared by the United Nations for the past 14 years, the group is out with a 10-minute video featuring Academy Award-winning actor Michael Douglas breaking down the biggest challenges for democracy reformers and explaining how everyday citizens can drive solutions.
Broadcasters are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission after the agency made clear it wants broader public disclosure regarding TV political ads.
With the 2020 election less than a year away and political TV ads running more frequently, the FCC issued a lengthy order to clear up any ambiguities licensees of TV stations had regarding their responsibility to record information about ad content and sponsorship. In response, a dozen broadcasting stations sent a petition to the agency, asking it to consider a more narrow interpretation of the law.
This dispute over disclosure rules for TV ads comes at a time when digital ads are subject to little regulation. Efforts to apply the same rules for TV, radio and print advertising across the internet have been stymied by Congress's partisanship and the Federal Election Commission being effectively out of commission.