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Public communications

As defined in FEC regulations, the term "public communication" includes all of the following:

  • Broadcast, cable or satellite transmission
  • Newspaper
  • Magazine
  • Outdoor advertising facility (for example, billboards)
  • Mass mailing (defined as more than 500 pieces of mail matter of an identical or substantially similar nature within any 30-day period)
  • Telephone banks (defined as more than 500 telephone calls of an identical or substantially similar nature within any 30-day period)
  • Any other general public political advertising— general public political advertising does not include internet ads, except for communications placed for a fee on another person's or entity's website

Independent expenditures

An independent expenditure is an expenditure for a communication "expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate that is not made in cooperation, consultation, or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, a candidate's authorized committee, or their agents, or a political party or its agents."

Electioneering communications

An electioneering communication is any broadcast, cable or satellite communication that fulfills all of the following conditions:

  • The communication refers to a clearly identified candidate for federal office.
  • The communication is publicly distributed shortly before an election for the office that candidate is seeking.
  • The communication is targeted to the relevant electorate (House and Senate candidates only).

Express advocacy

A communication "expressly advocates" if it includes a message that unmistakably urges the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate for federal office.

“Clearly identified candidates”

A "clearly identified candidate" is one whose name, nickname, photograph or drawing appears, or whose identity is apparent through unambiguous reference, such as "your Congressman," or through an unambiguous reference to his or her status as a candidate, such as "the Democratic presidential nominee" or "Republican candidate for Senate in this state."

When disclaimers are and aren’t required on public communications

A "disclaimer" notice is a statement placed on a public communication that identifies the person(s) who paid for the communication and, where applicable, the person(s) who authorized the communication.

Political committees must include a disclaimer on each of the following:

  1. All "public communications"
  2. Bulk electronic email (defined as electronic mail with more than 500 substantially similar communications)
  3. Websites available to the general public, regardless of whether the communication expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, or solicits funds in connection with a federal election (for example, contributions for a federal candidate or federal political committee)

Individuals and other persons: A disclaimer must appear on any "electioneering communication" and on any public communication by any person that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate or solicits funds in connection with a federal election.