An electioneering communication is any broadcast, cable or satellite communication that refers to a clearly identified federal candidate, is publicly distributed within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election and is targeted to the relevant electorate.
Clearly identified candidate
A candidate is “clearly identified” if the candidate’s name, nickname, photograph or drawing appears, or the identity of the candidate is otherwise apparent through an unambiguous reference such as “the President,” “your Congressman,” “the Democratic presidential nominee,” “the Republican candidate for Senate in the State of Georgia.”
A communication is “publicly distributed” for the purposes of the rules governing electioneering communications when it is aired, broadcast, cablecast or otherwise disseminated through the facilities of a radio or television station, cable television system or a satellite system.
Targeted to the relevant electorate
A communication is “targeted to the relevant electorate” when it is receivable by 50,000 or more persons in the candidate’s district (for a House candidate) or state (for a Senate candidate).
What is not an electioneering communication?
A communication is not an electioneering communication if it:
- Is publicly disseminated through means other than broadcast, cable or satellite media;
- Appears in a news story, commentary or editorial that is publicly distributed by broadcast, cable or satellite facilities not owned or controlled by any political party;
- Is a bona fide news story distributed by facilities owned and controlled by a party or a candidate;
- Constitutes an expenditure or independent expenditure; or
- Constitutes a candidate debate or forum.
Disclaimer notice requirements for electioneering communications
All electioneering communications financed by a corporation or labor organization’s general treasury funds require a disclaimer stating who paid for the communication, as well as its permanent street address, telephone number or website, and also state that the communication was not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.
“Paid for by the Fishermen’s Union (www.fishunion.org) and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee."
All disclaimers must be clear and conspicuous regardless of the medium in which the communication is transmitted. A disclaimer is not clear and conspicuous if it is difficult to read or hear, or if the placement is easily overlooked.
Specific requirements for radio and television communications
In addition to the statement identifying who has paid for and authorized a communication, additional requirements, sometimes referred to as the “stand by your ad” requirements, apply to radio and television communications.
For a radio or television communication that is not authorized by a candidate or the candidate’s authorized committee, a representative of the corporation or labor organization paying for the communication must state that the organization is responsible for the communication. For example, the representative could state, “The Fishermen’s Union is responsible for the content of this communication.” The full name of the corporation or labor organization is also required in the disclaimer.
The full “stand by your ad” disclaimer is required regardless of the length or brevity of the radio or television communication.
Additional requirements for television communication disclaimers
Both authorized and unauthorized television communications must contain a similar, clearly readable written statement that appears at the end of the communication. To be clearly readable, the communication must appear for a period of at least four seconds with a reasonable degree of color contrast between the background and the disclaimer statement and must occupy at least four percent of the vertical picture height. Disclaimers that are printed in black text on a white background, as well as disclaimers that have at least the same degree of contrast with the background color as the degree of contrast between the background color and the color of the largest text used in the communication, will be considered to satisfy the color contrast requirement.
Reporting electioneering communications
Corporations and labor organizations that make electioneering communications aggregating over $10,000 in the calendar year must report the disbursements to the FEC on FEC Form 9.
For more information on the reporting requirements, consult www.fec.gov/rad/other_filers/FederalElectionCommission-RAD-OtherFilers.shtml.
Coordinating electioneering communications is prohibited
An electioneering communication paid for by a corporation or labor organization meets the content and payment prongs under the Commission’s three-part test for determining whether a communication was coordinated. If the conduct prong is also met, then the electioneering communication would result in a prohibited in-kind contribution by the corporation or labor organization. To avoid making a prohibited contribution, corporations and labor organizations financing electioneering communications must not engage in the activity noted under “Conduct prong” as described on this page.