On October 10, 2017, the Commission reopened the comment period on its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on internet communication disclaimers. (Federal Register, 82 Fed. Reg. 46937.) Comments must be submitted in writing on or before November 9, 2017.
Editor's note: On November 9, 2017, the Commission voted to extend the comment period until Monday, November 13, 2017. For help submitting comments, consult our recent tip for treasurers.
Under the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and Commission regulations, a disclaimer is a statement that must appear on certain communications in order to identify who paid for the communication and, where applicable, whether the communication was authorized by a candidate. With some exceptions, the Act and Commission regulations require disclaimers to accompany public communications that are made by a political committee, expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified federal candidate, or solicit contributions. Political committees must also include a disclaimer on email sent to more than 500 recipients, as well as on their internet websites.
While the term "public communication" does not usually include internet communications, it does encompass communications placed for a fee on another person’s website. Therefore, such communications are subject to disclaimer requirements as well.
For those communications requiring disclaimers, each disclaimer "must be presented in a clear and conspicuous manner, to give the reader, observer or, listener adequate notice of the identity" of the communication’s sponsor.
On October 13, 2011, the Commission published an ANPRM seeking comment on whether and how to revise 11 CFR 110.11 concerning disclaimers on certain internet communications. On October 18, 2016, the Commission reopened the comment period to consider legal and technological developments since the 2011 notice was published. In light of developments since the close of the last comment period, the Commission is reopening the comment period once again to consider disclaimer requirements as applied to certain internet communications. The Commission seeks additional comments on any of the issues brought up in the 2011 and 2016 ANPRM Federal Register notices, as well as comments that address advertisements on internet-enabled applications and devices. Finally, the Commission seeks comments that address possible regulatory approaches that could minimize the need for serial revisions of Commission regulations in order to adapt to new or emerging technologies.
All comments must be in writing. Commenters are encouraged to submit comments electronically via the Commission’s website at www.fec.gov/netdisclaimers or at http://sers.fec.gov/fosers/, reference REG 2011-02. Alternatively, commenters may submit comments in paper form, addressed to the Federal Election Commission, Attn: Neven F. Stipanovic, Acting Assistant General Counsel, 999 E Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20463. All comments must include the full name, city, state, and zip code of each commenter or they will not be considered. The Commission will post all comments to its website and in the FEC’s Public Records Office at the conclusion of the comment period.
52 U.S.C. § 30120(a)
Identification of funding and authorizing sources
11 CFR 100.26
Definition of public communication
11 CFR 110.11
Communications; advertising; disclaimers