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DIY Campaign-Finance Reform, With Help From ProPublica

Ticker: ProPublica Volunteers

By Kirsten Salyer

On Monday Bloomberg View editorialized in favor of the Federal Communications Commission's plan to require digital disclosure of political advertising spending at cable and radio stations. Turns out, we needn't wait for the FCC to get going: ProPublica, the investigative-journalism website, is already on the case.

ProPublica’s crowd-sourcing solution invites volunteers to sign up to go their local stations and make scans of the political ad files, which stations are required to make public. In the trial run of the project, volunteers went to five Chicago-area affiliates and posted their findings.

As of Thursday at 11:45 a.m., 80 volunteers in 51 TV markets had signed up.

“If we can build a large, energized group that wants to do weekly checks in every market in the U.S., we'll be thrilled,” said Daniel Victor, ProPublica’s social media editor, in an e-mail.

These “spot checks” can help track influence in an election filled with shady super PAC spending. The Chicago volunteers found that the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future paid the five stations about $800,000 in the last month.

“The files could be a window into what may be otherwise undisclosed spending by ‘dark money’ nonprofit groups that are playing an increasing role in the elections,” Victor wrote.

(Kirsten Salyer is the social media editor for Bloomberg View. Follow her on Twitter.)

For more quick commentary from Bloomberg View, go to The Ticker.

-0- Mar/22/2012 16:20 GMT

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