On Monday, the non-profit news outfit ProPublica published a scoop: Defend My Dividend, a self-described grassroots organization backed by two trade groups with a vested interest tax issues, has been running tens of thousands of dollars in TV ads targeted at seniors in south Florida. In the vast world of outside political spending, such circumstances are commonplace. But they often go unnoticed. And ProPublica wants you to be able to do something about it.
By examining contracts between Defend My Dividend and the TV stations from which it purchased ad time, ProPublica was able to trace the ad buys to the Edison Electric Institute and the Alliance for Savings & Investment, which both represent large dividend-paying corporations. This summer, the Federal Communications Commission made available online detailed ad buy contracts like these from the largest media markets. But the paper trail is messy and unorganized—not every document is relevant, some are lumped together and you can’t search the database by political group.
So ProPublica is asking its readers to help organize the data. Surf over to the ProPublica site, look at a contract or two and answer a few simple questions about what’s on there. It’ll help compile one of the best looks at who’s spending what, where and why in a year when opaque groups like Defend My Dividend are dispensing serious money to influence the election. Check out what ProPublica has put together so far here.