Track political ads in Philadelphia with these web tools - Philly


Sep. 29, 2014 11:57 am

Track political ads in Philadelphia with these web tools

For the first time, voters can see records on political ad buys.

Former Gov. Tom Corbett was one of the politicians who sent a letter to the FCC in support of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger.

(Photo by Flickr user Chesapeake Bay Program, used under a Creative Commons license)

Several watchdog organizations are making it easier for Philadelphians to track political ads this fall.

The Philly Political Media Watch Project is creating a database of TV campaign ads and ad buys, leading up to the Nov. 4 election. It’s a partnership between the San Francisco-based Internet Archive,the Washington, D.C.-based Sunlight Foundation, Philadelphia’s Committee of Seventy and the University of Delaware. We first reported on the project this summer.

See the ad database

The tools are important because it’s not always obvious who’s paying for a political ad, said Sunlight Foundation managing editor Kathy Kiely.

“Before a voter follows a group’s recommendation, they ought to know what their agenda is,” Kiely said.

See Philly ad buys

It’s also the first time voters can see details on political ad buys “with the click of a mouse,” Kiely said. That’s thanks to two key factors:

  • The Federal Communications Commission now requires TV stations to post political ad buy records online (instead of just keeping them on paper at the station).
  • The Sunlight Foundation is scraping the FCC’s database of those records and working with the Committee of Seventy and Philadelphia volunteers who are pulling data from those PDFs.

If you want to help the Sunlight Foundation and Committee of Seventy go through the ad buy PDFs, email Kiely at or Pat Christmas at the Committee of Seventy at

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