If you want to stop the lies being spread by political action committees, here's how to do it
We have all seen the ads on television featuring everyday people with a compelling story against a candidate or issue. The ads are usually produced and paid for by a political action committee (PAC). Examples of PACs are Americans for Prosperity (which is headed by a Koch brother), and Freedom Works (also headed by a Koch Brother).
However, the ads tend to take a fraction of the truth and morph it into an outright lie. Now you don’t have to just sit in front of the television and get angry. You can take action with the guide below and stop the lies being spread by PACs.
In Michigan, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has been airing an emotional ad attacking Rep. Gary Peters for his support of the Affordable Care Act. In the ad, Julie Boonstra of Dexter, tears up as she talks about her leukemia diagnosis 5 years ago. She continues by saying that she received a letter “canceling her insurance because of Obamacare” and “if she doesn’t receive her medication she will die.”
She claims that her “out of pocket costs are unaffordable.” She lays blame on Rep. Peters for his support of Obamacare as it “jeopardized her health.” Compelling stuff and completely twisted into a self-serving attack. The facts of her story have been debunked by several news outlets. And in fact she’s actually saving $1000 a month under Obamacare. To be clear, the fault lies with AFP and the issue is not with Ms. Boonstra’s unfortunate diagnosis.
Rep. Peters filed a complaint with the FCC and AFP pulled the ad in response. However, AFP replaced the ad with an even more deceitful ad. In the original ad, Ms. Boonstra claimed that “the new plan was not affordable,” but in the new ad she uses the more subjective wording of “the new plan doesn’t work for me.” The Washington Post gave the revoked ad 2 Pinocchios and the replacement ad 3 Pinocchios. Basically, AFP is fixing blatant lies with fuzzier, harder-to-prove lies.
How to File a Complaint against False Super PAC Ads
Any citizen can file a complaint like Rep. Peters with the FCC. It is not hard to do and it is not time consuming. And with the mid-term elections coming up you may want to have this guide, provided by Democracy Tree, handy.
Gather the Facts
- Identify the questionable ad with the name of the sponsor (“paid for by…”) and a brief description. If you can obtain a YouTube hyperlink it would be helpful. Make sure it’s a third-party ad, and not a direct candidate ad. The fact-checker sites listed below will make that important distinction.
- Determine what T.V. or radio station affiliates ran the questionable ad in your area.
- Determine the time, and show during which the ad was aired — keep a pen and paper ready while watching T.V. or listening to the radio.
- You must specify the questionable material or known lie(s). Although not required, it helps to cite a reliable fact-checking source in the media disputing the veracity of the ad. If sourcing a specific fact-check site, offer a hyperlink or a web address. Here are three reliable fact-checker sites: Michigan Truth Squad; The Washington Post Fact Checker; and FactCheck.org.
File an online FCC complaint
- Go to the FCC complaint page found at www.fcc.gov/complaints.
- Check the “Broadcast (TV and radio), Cable and Satellite Issues” option.
- Next, check the “Deceptive or unlawful advertising or marketing by a communications company”.
- Next, indicate you wish to file online.
- Then proceed to Form 2000A, where you will supply some basic contact information before describing your complaint, which is limited to 1000 characters.
- If you are citing a TV or radio ad, complete the second section of the form. Located at the bottom of the page is a spot to attach files if you wish.
File a separate complaint with the TV or radio station(s)
While not required by the FCC, this is an important way to put them on notice and move the investigation along. FLACKcheck.org provides a user-friendly site with links to email for all the stations in the United States. When you describe your complaint, be sure to mention that it has also been lodged with the FCC.