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Free The Files: Find The Dark Money Flowing Into Your Local TV Stations

Outside groups are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to influence the coming elections - money that has long been hard to track.

This summer, the Federal Communications Commission ordered TV stations to pull back the curtain a bit, requiring them to publish online detailed records of political ad buys.

Before, these records were only available by visiting stations in person, an issue ProPublica spotlighted in our Free The Files coverage.

So far the new rule only covers the top 50 markets, and it's impossible to search these files by candidate or political group - meaning it's impossible to get a full picture of the spending.

We want to change that.

So we're rebooting Free the Files with a new tool to help detail campaign ad filings in 33 swing markets.

Every day we'll be pulling fresh files from the FCC website, and asking for your help extracting key data points that will help uncover outside spending in the final days of the campaign.

Every file you help free will be added to our page, so we'll all be able to get a better picture of the outside groups' spending.

What do we expect to find in the FCC filings? A range of information - from identifying which outside groups are buying ads and where, to finding new groups that enter the fray late in the game, to details on who is behind opaque nonprofits that are playing a larger role in the election.

That's how ProPublica's Justin Elliott found the players behind the Government Integrity Fund, a little-known nonprofit that has spent big money to unseat Senator Sherrod Brown in Ohio.

GET STARTED: FREE THE FILES
We have less than six weeks to go before the election. Log in now to help us start freeing the files!

JOIN US ON FACEBOOK
You can keep track of our progress by joining our Facebook group - tell us what you've learned from the documents, get updates from our reporters, or ask questions about the documents.

JOIN #FREETHEFILES

RELATED READING
* How Nonprofits Spend Millions on Elections and Call It Public Welfare

* From Citizens United to Super PACs: A Campaign Finance Reading Guide

* Political Ad Data Comes Online, But It's Not Searchable

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Previously:
* Here's The Political Ad Data Chicago TV Stations Won't Put Online

* Meet The Media Companies Lobbying Against Transparency

* FCC-Required Political Ad Data Disclosures Won't Be Searchable

* Broadcasters Sue For Right To Hide Political Data

* New Political Ad Disclosure Rules Could Take Months

* Republicans Vote To Block Transparency On Political Ads

* Media Companies Make Yet Another Push To Defang Transparency Rule

* Republicans Back Down On Effort To Defund Transparency Rule

* Political Ad Transparency Rule Clears Another Hurdle

* Broadcasters Make Emergency Motion To Block Transparency Rule

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Comments welcome.




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Posted on September 28, 2012


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