App Answers: Who's Paying For That Political Ad?

For voters living in swing sates, the barrage of political ads has already been unprecedented. Now there is an app, Ad Hawk, that can help you figure out who's paying for all those ads. it works similarly to Shazam, a smartphone app that can identify songs.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now that Isaac has passed by Tampa, the Republican National Convention gets underway today, but voters living in swing sates have already heard plenty of messages from both political parties - unprecedented waves of ads.

NPR's Steve Henn reports there is an app - an application that can help you figure out who's behind them.

STEVE HENN, BYLINE: If this is what your TV sounds like...

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ANNOUNCER #1: Two wars. Tax cuts for millionaires. Death.

ANNOUNCER #2: Mitt Romney turned around dozens of American companies and helped create...

ANNOUNCER #3: Romney would pay only 1 percent...

HENN: ...you might be wondering whose paying for this.

Tom Lee at the Sunlight Foundation says his group's new app - Ad Hawk can answer that.

TOM LEE: Well, it's an idea that they've been kicking around here and there for a while. A lot of us use Shazam and apps like it.

HENN: Shazam is a popular smart phone app that can listen to and identify songs. Ad Hawk - spelled like the bird - works the same way. You fire it up and you'll see a button that looks like a TV.

LEE: As a political ad plays, you hit that, record a snippet of audio and it will match that against our database of thousands of political ads.

HENN: And then, Ad Hawk can tell you more details about the group that's paying for the ad - like how much it's spending or who's backing it.

Of course, groups set up as, quote, "social welfare organizations," are not required to make their donors public. So in those cases, the ultimate source of money may remain a mystery.

Steve Henn, NPR News, Silicon Valley.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.