An article in the June AARP Bulletin outlines how to get misleading SuperPAC ads off the air during this election cycle. This gives us huge leverage.
According to Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, broadcast stations are pretty much required to air ads directly sponsored by federal candidates. (They also can't charge as much for them.)
But they are NOT required to air third-party ads -- and that gives us power. Follow me below the squiggle for more.
In a recent study, the Annenberg Center looked at third-party (SuperPAC) ads from the Iowa caucuses through the Wisconsin primary, a total of $41.1 million in ads. In the sample they examined, more than 56 percent contained misleading claims. Jamieson describes one Ohio ad in which a person's words were completely twisted around to support the Issue 2 ballot initiative, when in fact she strongly opposed it. The Center's FlackCheck.org contains analysis of some of the worst ads.
This is no surprise to those of us who have been paying attention, fussing and fuming and trying in vain to respond to all the stupid and flat-out lying.
But remember, broadcast stations are not required to air these ads. They want to, because they are allowed to charge more for them than for candidate-sponsored ads -- what Jamieson calls "a windfall." But pressure on local station managers can force them either to reject the ads or to insist that they correct misstatements of fact.
The Annenberg Center's "Stand by Your Ad" campaign is encouraging people to ramp up the pressure on local stations (and provides an easy link to do so). It's one of the few ways we have to do something about the tsunami of negative and false ads flooding our airwaves this election cycle.