The Public Disclosure Commission is kicking off a series of public conversations about how to improve digital political advertising disclosure at its Aug. 26 meeting.

The meeting comes as the Commission is taking a look at the rules that govern what providers of political advertising must disclose to the public on request. The rules originate from the 1972 initiative that created the PDC and campaign-finance disclosure in Washington, which established a public right of inspection for "commercial advertisers'" records of political ad buys. 

The law applies equally to all providers of political ads  TV stations, printers, newspapers, mailing services, and even billboard companies — but in recent years it has been digital platforms that have attracted the most attention as the biggest players in the market have faced complaints and legal action for not complying fully with the law. 

The Commission is revisiting the rules that apply to digital ads in hopes of improving disclosure and facilitating better linkage between campaigns' reports of ad buys and commercial advertiser's information about those purchases.

Commissioners want to hear from the public about these three questions:
  1. Should campaigns be required to notify commercial advertisers that an order is political advertising, and what should campaigns be required to report to the PDC about the ads they purchase?
  2. Should commercial advertisers be allowed more time to respond to disclosure requests in instances where the sponsor has not told indicated that the order was political advertising?
  3. What particular details about digital political advertising are important for the public to know? The rule currently requires digital platforms to provide a copy of the ad, the name and address of the person actually paying for the advertising, the total cost of the ad, date and method of payment, demographic targeting, and number of impressions, among other details.
If you have thoughts on these questions or any other aspect of digital political ad disclosure, email digitaladrules@pdc.wa.gov to send us your comments or sign up to speak at the Commission meeting.