10-state analysis of campaign-ad disclosure laws
By Scott Felsenthal
First Amendment Center legal intern
States were selected at random for this analysis to show how some states have incorporated the Internet into their election-advertising disclosure laws, whereas others have not. In the states below that do not address the Internet as an advertising medium, the disclaimer laws are summarized in relation to print, television and radio.
The Fair Campaign Practices Act is Alabama's governing campaign-finance disclosure law.
- Applies to political communications that are in print, on television, on the radio and on the Internet.
- §17-22A-12 of the Code of Alabama does not directly state that the Internet is subjected to the disclosure regulations, but it does state that "any paid political advertisement appearing in any print media or broadcast on any electronic media shall be clearly identified or marked as a paid advertisement."
- Disclosure requirements for television, radio, print, and Internet:
- Disclosures must appear on the front page of advertisements in the form of print. This includes advertisements published on the Internet.
- Disclosures must be identified at the beginning or the end of a radio or television advertisement.
- The advertisements must be identified as paid advertisements by using such wording as "paid advertisement by," "paid for by" or "paid political ad."
- The disclaimer must contain the identification of the person, candidate or committee placing the ad.
- Under the Fair Campaign Practices Act, identification means the full name and address.
- A disclaimer should be placed on all campaign novelties, such as buttons, pencils and shirts. Disclaimers should also be used on billboards and yard signs.
- Note: This requirement represents a major variance from other states' regulations. Most states do not require placing disclaimers on such small items because of the inconvenience and impracticability of doing so.
The Arizona Revised Statutes, specifically A.R.S. §16-901.01 and §16-912.01, set forth the state's disclosure laws.
- Applies to political communications in print, television, and radio. The Internet is not directly identified in the statutes as a form of advertisement.
- Print disclosures:
- The disclosure must be printed clearly and legibly in a conspicuous manner and it must be at least as large as the majority of the printed text.
- If a political committee puts an advertisement in print in order to support or oppose a candidate or election, it should disclose the four largest of its major funding sources (other than individuals) at the time the ad is produced.
- If the contributor is out-of-state, the political committee should disclose that fact.
- Radio and television disclosure:
- The disclaimer should be spoken at the end of the communication.
- No other requirements for radio and television disclosures are set forth in A.R.S. § 16-912.01.
- Disclaimers are not required on small items such as buttons, balloons, pencils, or other similar sized items because a disclosure could not be conveniently printed on such items.
The controlling law for disclaimers in Connecticut is found in Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-333w, which was updated in 2006. The Internet is highly inclusive within this statute.
- Conn. Gen. Stat. §9-333w applies to political communications in print, on television, radio and the Internet.
- Print and Internet disclosures:
- Applies to any written, typed or Web-based written communication.
- Any communication that promotes the success or defeat of a candidate must include the words “paid for by” and the following:
- If an individual is paying for the communication, the name and address of the individual must be provided.
- If a committee other than a party committee, then name of the committee and its campaign treasurer must be provided.
- If a party committee, then the name of the committee must be given, followed by the words “approved by,” followed by the name of the candidate or individual responsible for the ad.
- Television and Internet video:
- At the end of the advertisement there must appear, simultaneously for at least four seconds:
- A clearly identifiable photograph of the candidate.
- A clearly readable printed statement identifying the candidate.
- A personal audio message that states “I am (candidate’s name) and I approved this message.”
- Radio and Internet audio:
- Any communication that promotes the success or defeat of a candidate must include:
- The advertisement ending with a personal audio message from the candidate that must:
- Identify the candidate and the office the candidate is seeking.
- Include a personal message that states “I am (candidate’s name) and I approved this message.”
- Disclosures not required on “political paraphernalia,” such as pins, buttons, hats, or similar items.
K.S.A. §25-4156 controls the disclaimer laws for political advertisements for Kansas. The statute applies to print, television and radio.
- Print disclosure requirements:
- The advertisement must be followed by the word "advertisement" or the abbreviation "adv."
- The above must appear on a separate line from the body of the text and must include the name of the chairperson or treasurer of the organization or individual sponsoring the ad.
- Television and radio disclosure requirements:
- The advertisement must be followed by the phrase "paid for" or "sponsored by," followed by the name of the sponsoring organization and the name of the chairperson or treasurer of that organization.
The http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(rbev0s555c0lm0450vnv0j45))/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-169-247 Michigan Campaign Finance Act went into effect in 1976 and has since been amended in numerous areas. However, to this date, there are no regulations dealing with the Internet.
- The Michigan Campaign Finance Act applies to political communications in print and on television and the radio.
- The Internet is not directly identified in the act as a form of advertisement.
- Any printed political promotion shall “bear upon it the name and address of the person paying for the matter.”
- If the printed matter relating to a candidate is produced by an independent person or party and is not authorized in writing by that candidate's campaign committee, then the printed matter must contain the following disclaimer: “Not authorized by any candidate committee.”
- A radio or television paid advertisement that makes reference to a political candidate “shall identify the sponsoring person as required by the Federal Communications Commission … and shall bear the name of the person paying for the advertisement.”
- If the radio or television paid advertisement is not authorized by the political candidate’s party then the advertisement shall contain the following disclaimer: “Not authorized by any candidate.”
- If the radio or television paid advertisement is paid for by a person other than the candidate or candidate’s party, the advertisement must include this disclaimer: “Authorized by (name of candidate or name of candidate committee).”
- Each disclaimer must indicate that the printed words or radio or television paid advertisement is paid for “with regulated funds.”
- This regulation excludes a candidate committee’s printed material or radio or television paid advertisements.
The revised code of Ohio §3517.20 (R.C. §3517.20) contains the disclaimer law for political communications for the state.
- Applies to television, radio, print and Internet.
- Made applicable to the Internet by Ohio Elections Commission Advisory Opinion 96ELC-10. Answering the question of whether or not the Internet should include disclaimers for advertisements or messages sent by a candidate or a political committee supporting or opposing a candidate, the secretary of state' office stated that "any form of general publication … that is designed to promote the nomination, election, adoption, or defeat of a candidate, issue or question, must include electronic means of publication, as well as any written form."
- Therefore, advertisements placed on the Internet are subject to the disclaimer requirements of R.C. §3517.20.
- Print disclosures:
- In addition to the disclaimer "paid political advertisement," the name of the political committee and its chairperson or treasurer must be disclosed.
- Radio/television disclosures:
- A candidate or campaign committee, while broadcasting over any radio or television station within Ohio, must identify the speaker with “the speaker’s name and residence address.” If the communication identifies the chairperson, treasurer, or secretary of the organization responsible for the communication, then you must disclose the “name and residence or business address of that officer, except that communications by radio need not broadcast the residence or business address of the officer.”
- A radio station must keep on file for up to 6 months the residence or business address and must "divulge" it to any person upon request.
- Disclaimers are not required on small items such as buttons, balloons, pencils, etc., as they are too small for readable printing.
The controlling disclaimer law in Tennessee is found in T.C.A. § 2-19-120.
- Applies to television, radio and print.
- The Internet is not directly identified in the statute as a form of advertisement.
- Applies to a paid advertisement that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate.
- Applies to any other form of general public political advertising.
- Disclosure requirements for print, radio, and television:
- If the advertisement is paid for and is authorized by a candidate or a political committee for that candidate, the disclosure should clearly state that the communication has been paid for by the authorized political committee.
- The identity of the head of the committee, or the treasurer of the committee, must be disclosed as well.
- If the advertisement is paid for by a third party but authorized by the candidate or candidate's committee, the disclosure must clearly state it is paid for by another person and is authorized by the candidate or candidate's committee.
- If the advertisement is paid for on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate but is paid for by someone not authorized by the candidate, the disclosure must clearly state that the communication has been paid for by such person and is not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.
- These disclosure requirements do not apply to small items such as pens, bumper stickers, buttons and other similar small novelties because the disclaimer could not be conveniently printed on them.
The Texas Election Law was updated to include Internet regulations. It became effective Sept. 1, 2003.
- The Texas Election Law applies to communications that are in print and on television, radio and the Internet.
- Disclosure statements are required whenever the political advertising contains "express advocacy" (i.e., "vote for," "elect," "support").
- The person who is responsible for the political advertising to be published is the one who bears the burden of including the disclosure statement.
- The disclosure statement should include the words "political advertising" or a recognizable abbreviation, and the full name of either the person who paid for the advertising, the political committee authorizing the ad, or the candidate himself.
- The disclosure must clearly appear on the face of the political advertising, in whatever form of advertising that may be.
- Exceptions to the disclosure requirement:
- No need for disclosures on balloons, buttons, hats, magnets, pencils or the like.
- Invitations or tickets to political fundraising events.
- Envelopes used to transmit a political advertisement (as long as the advertisement in the envelope contains a disclosure).
- Fliers that cost less than $500 to produce and distribute.
- Political advertising printed on letterhead stationery (as long as the letterhead includes the full name of either the person who paid for the advertising, the political committee authorizing it, or the candidate himself).
The Campaign Finance Disclosure Act of Virginia, amended in 2006, requires a disclaimer statement for all political advertisements that use express advocacy to support the election or defeat of a candidate. It applies to political advertisements in print, on television, on the radio, and on the Internet.
- Print media and television disclosure requirements:
- Statements on print advertisements must be displayed in a conspicuous manner.
- "Paid for by …" statement:
- If the political advertisement is sponsored by a candidate and appears in print, the disclosure statement must state who paid for the advertisement, whether it be the candidate or his/her committee.
- "Authorized by …" statement:
- Above phrase must be used if the candidate or his campaign committee is the sponsor of the advertisement AND the advertisement does not refer to any other identified candidate.
- If the sponsor of the advertisement does not have the exclusive control over the audio, then the disclaimer requirements are the same as the print media requirements.
- Television disclosure requirements also regulated by 47 U.S.C. § 315, 317.
- Any candidate-sponsored advertisement airing on the radio that clearly refers to another identified candidate must include a spoken disclaimer by the candidate, stating, "I am [name of candidate], candidate for [name of office], and I paid for this ad."
The Public Disclosure Commission of Washington state oversees the disclosure requirements set forth by the Revised Code of Washington. The Revised Code of Washington (RCW 42.17.510) sets out the statutory regulations for political advertisement disclosures.
- Applies to television, radio, print. The Internet is not directly identified in the statute as a form of advertisement.
- Television, radio and print disclosure requirements
- All written political advertisements, as well as radio and television advertisements, should include the sponsor's name.
- If an advertisement is independently paid for by someone other than the candidate's committee, then the following statement must be clearly spoken, or must appear in print and be visible for at least four seconds: "Notice to Voters: No candidate authorized this ad. Paid for by (name, city, state)."
- If the ad is paid for by a group (not an individual) other than the candidate's party, the following must be included in the disclosure: "Top Five Contributors" (followed by a list of the names of the five people or entities making the largest contributions in excess of $700 during the 12 months before the date of the advertisement).
- Yard signs, bumper stickers, buttons and the like are exempt from disclosure regulations in Washington because identification would be "impractical."
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