You can be a Free the Files superhero too (
by Aaron Klemz
Oct 15, 2012, 10:00 AM

Help Free the Files

We’re being bombarded by political advertising right now. One of the consequences of Citizens United is that more of these ads are being bought by dark money groups like SuperPACs and 501(c)4s. Disclosure rules haven’t kept pace with this sea change in who is funding political advertising. At the very least, we should know which groups are spending money to influence this election.

Political ad spending has always been public information, but is notoriously difficult to access. Television stations were required to maintain a “public file” that detailed political ad buys, but until this year, that information was held at the station. You had to go in person to get it. Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission required that television stations in the largest 50 media markets post these files on the internet. Unfortunately, this information is presented in an inconsistent format and isn’t searchable.

Enter “Free the Files.” This project of ProPublica, a non-profit investigative journalism website, needs your help to put this information in a format where everybody can see who is spending money in swing districts. Here in Minneapolis-St.Paul, there are 700 files that need to be logged. They need your held to do it.

It’s really easy – you log in to their system, they give you a document, and you enter 4 pieces of information. And it’s fun – once you’ve liberated one file, you’ll want to do another. LeftMN readers – pitch in and let’s log all the files!

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