Bernard Schoenburg: Bill seeks to shed light on social media political ads

Bernard Schoenburg: Bill seeks to shed light on social media political ads

A dispute that broke out on Facebook in recent weeks involving the Christian County GOP and state Sen. ANDY MANAR, D-Bunker Hill, has helped lead to some new proposed state legislation.

State Sen. IRA SILVERSTEIN, D-Chicago, said Senate Bill 2251, introduced last week with Manar as a co-sponsor, would require the same kind of disclosure for advertisements on social media sites as are now required for television, radio or newspaper ads if a political committee pays and names a candidate.

“Just because it is new media doesn’t mean it shouldn’t fall under the same requirements for existing media in terms of disclosing who funded, prepared and distributed the material,” Silverstein said.

In a statement, Silverstein said that a recent Facebook ad “falsely attacked an Illinois Senate colleague with no clear means of pursuing the source.” He told me later he was referring to the Manar situation.

A “sponsored” post on Facebook, listed as coming from Christian County Republicans, said in part: “Layoffs Coming? Brought to you by Andy Manar.” It alleged he voted for a bill that hurt coal-fired power in his own district.

“Manar’s bailout of Nuclear power plants is hurting good paying jobs,” it said.

But Manar actually voted against the bill. In a series of 32-18 Senate votes on Dec. 1 on House amendments that created the final legislation, Manar was a “no.”

The legislation, Senate Bill 2814, was credited with keeping open nuclear plants in Clinton and the Quad Cities, and saving jobs for 1,500 Exelon workers. GOP Gov. BRUCE RAUNER signed it into law. Manar said he voted against the bill in particular because it didn’t include provisions he wanted to help the coal-fired plant at Coffeen.

Manar says he tried to get the ad taken down by telling Facebook the ad was “a complete lie.” He said his campaign was told, basically, by Facebook that “it wasn’t their responsibility to match the votes of public officials to paid ads.”