Political Advertising Disclaimer


Michigan Press Association would like to clarify the different types of political ads and the disclaimers required by law with each.

It is our strong recommendation that you have a policy that requires both the name and the address of the person paying for the ad to be contained in the ad. This is not a matter of law, but of accountability to the newspaper and the readership. It also makes life easier for your sales staff.

If you have any questions, please contact Lisa McGraw at 517.372.2424 or lisa@michiganpress.org.


For State Elections, here are the most pertinent legal requirements

"Identification"

  • Name and address required where reference an election, candidate or ballot question unless an individual, acting independently not as an agent for candidate/committee places ad.

"Not Authorized" Disclaimer language:

  • IS required where about a candidate and is paid for not by the candidate’s committee, but another registered committee (e.g., Democratic Party), or an unregistered committee and there is no writing from the candidate authorizing.
  • NOT required if ad is about a candidate, placed by an individual, and the individual is acting independently (not as an agent for the candidate or a committee)

"Regulated Funds" Disclaimer language:

  • NOT required for ad place by candidate or candidate’s committee
  • NOT required for ad placed by an individual, not a registered committee (i.e., an independent expenditure)
  • IS required for an ad about a candidate and the ad is not placed by the candidate or candidate’s committee, but by another registered committee (e.g., Democratic Party).
  • IS required for an ad about a ballot item and is placed by the ballot committee

CHART FOR STATE ELECTION ADS

TYPE OF AD Ad paid for by Candidate or Candidate Committee Ad about Candidate, not paid for by candidate committee but another registered committee Ballot Committee Ad placed by an unregistered group about candidate or ballot proposal, but an independent expenditure (i.e., not a registered committee) Ad placed by an individual about candidate or ballot proposal, but an independent expenditure (i.e., not a registered committee)
DISCLAIMER Paid for by Committee to elect _______. Not authorized by any candidate committee; paid for with regulated funds Paid for with regulated funds Not authorized by any candidate committee None required by law
IDENTIFICATION Name + Address Name + Address Name + Address Name + Address None required by law
EXAMPLE VOTE FOR JOE! Paid for by the Committee to elect Joe + campaign address. VOTE FOR JOE! Not authorized by any candidate committee; paid for by ____ + address, with regulated funds VOTE YES ON PROPOSAL A! Paid for by the committee to support Prop. A + address; with regulated funds VOTE YES ON PROPOSAL A! Paid for by the committee to support Prop. A + address; not authorized by any candidate committee VOTE YES ON PROPOSAL A!

For Federal Elections, here are the most pertinent legal requirements

“Authorized” language: is required where the ad is paid for by other persons but authorized by a candidate, an authorized political committee of a candidate, or its agents.

“Name and Address” + phone number or World Wide Web address is required where the ad is not authorized by a candidate, an authorized political committee of a candidate, or its agents

CHART FOR STATE ELECTION ADS

TYPE OF AD Ad paid for by Candidate or Candidate Committee Ad about Candidate, not paid for by candidate committee but another registered committee but IS authorized by candidate Ad about Candidate, not paid for by candidate committee but another registered committee but not authorized by candidate Ad placed by individual or unregistered group about candidate, but an independent expenditure (i.e., not a registered committee)
DISCLAIMER Paid for by Committee to elect _______. Authorized by candidate/candidate committee ______; paid for with regulated funds Not authorized by any candidate committee; paid for with regulated funds Not authorized by any candidate/candidate committee
IDENTIFICATION Name Name Name + Address + phone or internet address Name + Address + phone or internet address
EXAMPLE VOTE FOR JOE! Paid for by the Committee to elect Joe. VOTE FOR JOE! Authorized by Joe; paid for by ____, with regulated funds VOTE FOR JOE! Not authorized by Joe; paid for by ____ + address + phone/internet address, with regulated funds VOTE FOR JOE! By _____ + address + phone/internet address. Not authorized by Candidate.

Election Checklist for Newspapers

  • Newspapers do not have to accept political ads, allow politicians access to their news columns or run letters to the editor.
  • You can’t charge higher rates for political ads that you would charge other advertisers for the same space under similar conditions.
  • Don’t offer/charge different rates for different candidates. The difference between the regular rate and the lower rate can be viewed as an in-kind political contribution and a violation of Campaign Finance Laws.
  • You can offer volume discounts as long as the volume discount is offered to all candidates.
  • You are allowed to editorially favor one candidate over another by running ads for one candidate and none for the other. (Equal time rules do not apply to newspapers). But, as noted above the ad rate for the candidate must be the same as for a regular advertiser. If you run ads for more than one candidate, all candidates must be treated equally.
  • Nothing prevents the advertiser from including in the ad the name and address of the person/entity paying for the ad. And nothing prevents the newspaper from requiring that people place in their private independent ads the name and address of those paying for the ad.
  • Political advertisers want their ad copy to be kept confidential prior to publication. So make sure that any employees involved in the ad (e.g., sales and perhaps newsroom) take appropriate steps to maintain confidentiality.
  • You are responsible for the content of any political ad you publish. Candidates may sue the newspaper rather than the opposing candidate (or the person who placed the ad) when a mistake is made. So you must do your best to ensure the accuracy of the assertions in the ad:
    • If you have a question as to where information in the ad came from (i.e., “candidate B is a known thespian”) call the person placing the ad and ask them for the source of their information (like a playbill) that can be reviewed/referenced in the ad.
    • You can talk to the newsroom – they often know a lot about the candidates they are covering (but be careful to maintain confidentiality)
  • Watch for last minute changes designed to take advantage of your deadlines. Weekly papers with early deadlines are particularly vulnerable.
If you have any questions, please contact Lisa McGraw at 517.372.2424 or lisa@michiganpress.org.