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Making electioneering communications

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.

Definitions

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 Representative,” or “the incumbent.”

Public distribution

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).

In the case of presidential and vice presidential candidates, the communication is publicly distributed if it can be received by 50,000 or more people in a state where a primary election or caucus is being held within 30 days or anywhere in the United States 30 days prior to the nominating convention or 60 days prior to the general election.

Who may make electioneering communications?

Individuals and other persons, including corporations and labor organizations may make electioneering communications.

Political committees may make communications that meet the definition of electioneering communications. However, because such communications would be reportable as “expenditures” under the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act), they are not technically considered electioneering communications. As with electioneering communications made by persons other than political committees, if such a communication is coordinated with a campaign, it counts as an in-kind contribution, subject to limitations and reporting requirements.

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 or candidate;
  • Is a bona fide news story distributed by facilities owned and controlled by a party, a political committee, or a candidate. To not count as an electioneering communication in this instance, the news story must be a bona fide news account communicated on a licensed broadcasting facility and part of a general pattern of campaign-related news accounts that gives reasonably equal coverage to all opposing candidates in the listening area;
  • Constitutes an expenditure or independent expenditure;
  • Constitutes a candidate debate or forum or promotion of such a debate or forum by the sponsor of the event; or
  • Is paid for by a candidate for nonfederal office in connection with a nonfederal election, provided that the communication does not promote, support, attack or oppose any federal candidate.

Disclaimer notice requirements

Electioneering communications paid for by an individual, a group, a corporation, or a labor organization, but not authorized by a candidate or a candidate’s campaign, must contain a disclaimer notice identifying who paid for the communication and indicating whether any candidate or candidate’s committee authorized the communication.

Wording of disclaimer notice

A disclaimer notice must contain the full name of the individual, group, corporation, or labor organization that paid for the communication, along with any abbreviated name it uses to identify itself. The disclaimer notice must also provide the payor’s permanent street address, telephone number, or website address and must further state that the communication was not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

EXAMPLES:

Paid for by the Fishermen’s Union (www.fishunion.org) and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.”

“Paid for by John Doe (jdoe@ecexample.com) and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.”

Visibility requirements

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 additional requirements for radio and television communications

Spoken “stand by your ad” requirement for television and radio communications

In addition, for a radio or television communication that is not authorized by a candidate or the candidate’s authorized committee, a representative of the corporation, labor organization, individual or group paying for the communication must state that “XXX is responsible for this communication,” where “XXX” is the name of the corporation, labor organization, individual or group who paid for the communication.

For example, the representative could state, “The Fishermen’s Union is responsible for the content of this communication.”

The full spoken “stand by your ad” disclaimer is required regardless of the length or brevity of the radio or television communication.

Written “stand by your ad” requirements for television communications

Television communications must also 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.

Coordinating electioneering communications

An electioneering communication meets the content and payment tests under the Commission’s three-part test for determining whether a communication is coordinated. If the conduct prong is met as well, then the electioneering communication would be considered an in-kind contribution subject to contribution limitations, source prohibitions and reporting by both the payor and the campaign. 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.

Reporting electioneering communications

Individuals and other persons, including corporations and labor organizations, that make electioneering communications aggregating over $10,000 in the calendar year must report the disbursements to the FEC on Form 9.

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