The Sunlight Foundation, in conjunction with the Campaign Legal Center, has filed a legal complaint against ABC 15 in Phoenix over how forms related to a House Majority PAC that ran in January were filled out.

The complaint is only one of a total of eleven complaints the groups filed this morning, telling the Federal Communications Commission that the news stations fail to disclose that the ad mentions Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (who is running for re-election) nor does it disclose that the ad discusses a “national legislative issue of public importance” / a “controversial issue of public importance."

The station also failed to list the chief executive officer or members of the executive committee or the board. Instead, the paperwork lists a deputy director. 

All three are required to be disclosed by the FCC. 

The complaint against the ABC affiliate in Phoenix, KXNV, refers to an buy the House Majority PAC titled "Listens" ran in the Tucson and Phoenix market, with the group spending more than $200,000 to air the ad.

Text of the HMP ad:

It’s here, in small towns and wide-open spaces, that Ann Kirkpatrick listens and learns. It’s why she blew the whistle on the disastrous health care website, calling it “stunning ineptitude,” and worked to fix it.

She fought to hold insurance companies accountable so they can’t deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, or drop coverage when you get sick. Ann Kirkpatrick: seeing what’s wrong, doing what’s right.

The House Majority PAC is political action committee that has no ties to the Kirkpatrick campaign.

The complaint itself is against the TV station, which is responsible for the forms to be filled out correctly. It does not seek monetary damages.

In general, the complaints filed by Sunlight Foundation and the Campaign Legal Center, against various ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX affiliates that took ads from both Republican and Democratic groups.

Carolyn Pione Micheli, a vice president for corporate communications & investor relations with E.W. Scripps Company, said ABC-15 disclosed the advertisement properly.

She said the employees of the affiliate, which is owned by Scripps, followed the federal law closely and disclosed the information in their forms.   

Micheli said they will rely on the FCC for guidance for any action related to the complaint.

The public reports are for the most part, however, identical to those filed with other TV stations.

For example, the KNXV ad (here) is identical to Phoenix NBC affiliate KPNX (here.)

Meredith McGehee, the Policy Director of the Campaign Legal Center, said the simple forms are the only way for the public to learn more about the political ads filling the airwaves.

“In too many cases, the stations and their advertisers failed to comply with the simplest and most basic disclosure requirements," McGehee said. "As a result, the public does not have the information it needs to understand who is speaking on the public airwaves and attempting to influence their views on political issues. The information required to be included in the political file allows viewers to assess for themselves the information they are presented with on the air.”

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at or 573-4346. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFerguson


Reporter with the Arizona Daily Star. I cover politics as well as the city of Tucson and other municipalities in Southern Arizona.