Candidates, their authorized committees and other political committees need not display disclaimers on text ads they sponsor that are generated through Google, Inc.’s AdWords program. The full disclaimer would instead appear on a “landing page” that appears when a user clicks through a text ad.
Google, Inc. is a corporation that creates programs and applications that allow persons to search for and collect information on the Internet. Google’s AdWords program generates text ads in conjunction with keywords that are chosen by the advertiser. Text ads have a headline which can consist of up to 25 characters and two lines of text that display a Uniform Resource Locater (“URL”), which can consist of up to 70 characters. This general format applies to all advertisers, regardless of whether they are political committees. Google has partnered with other websites to participate in Google’s AdWords program. Using chosen keywords, Google can match an advertiser’s ads to websites in Google’s partner network that are most relevant to the advertiser’s message.
The primary purpose of a text ad is to attract customers to an advertiser’s “landing page” so that customers may learn more about what the advertiser has to offer. Advertisers pay Google for a text ad based upon the number of times a user clicks on the ad and is taken to the advertiser’s website. Google wishes to sell such text ads to candidates, their authorized committees and other political committees. The text ads would not display a disclaimer indicating who authorized or paid for the ad. A full disclaimer would instead appear on the landing page that appears when a user clicks through a text ad.
The Commission could not reach an agreement by the required four affirmative votes in response to the questions presented by Google. 2 U.S.C. § 437c(c) and 11 CFR 112.4(a). However, the Commission concluded that, under the circumstances described in the request, the proposed conduct is not in violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act or Commission regulations. Further explanation will be provided in the Commissioners’ concurring opinions.
AO 2010-19 and concurring opinions: Date issued: October 8, 2010; Length: 3 pages