There are rules governing what campaign literature in California, governed by the Political Reform Act.
Campaign literature must contain Political Advertising Disclaimers.
“Paid for by” disclaimers must appear on campaign advertising including
- campaign mailers
- radio and television ads
- electronic media ads.
Disclaimers apply to
- State candidates
- Local candidates
- Ballot measures
A “disclaimer” is the portion of a political message that identifies the person or entity who paid for or authorized the communication.
- The basic disclaimer required by the Act and seen on most communications is “Paid for by committee name.”
A committee can be:
- a candidate’s campaign committee
- a political action committee
- a political party committee
- a major donor
- a person or entity making independent expenditures. A person or entity qualifies as a committee under the Act if they receive contributions from others for political purposes of $1,000 or more per year; if they make independent expenditures on California candidates or ballot measures of $1,000 or more per year; or if they make contributions to California candidates or ballot measures of $10,000 or more per year.
These types of disclaimers are required:
- Mass mailings, including blast campaign emails, must include identification of the sender.
- Paid telephone calls must identify the candidate or committee who paid for or authorized the call.
- Radio and television ads must include “paid for by” disclaimer under Federal Communications Commission (FCC) law.
- Ballot measure ads and independent expenditure ads must include “paid for by committee name” and such ads by primarily formed committees must also list top two donors of $50,000 or more. This applies to television, radio, and electronic media advertisements, robocalls, mass mailings, and print ads such as newspaper ads, billboards and yard signs.
Different rules apply to different types of campaigns:
- Basic disclaimer rules apply to campaign materials disseminated by a candidate for their own election campaign because it is generally clear to the public that the candidate is sending the communication. The basic disclaimer must state: “Paid for by committee name.”
- Stricter disclaimer rules apply to (1) ballot measure advertisements and (2) independent expenditure advertisements on candidates and ballot measures, because it is less clear to the public who is responsible for these ads. Ballot measure and independent expenditure ads paid for by primarily formed committees must also list top two donors of $50,000 or more and special committee name rules apply. All independent expenditure ads for or against a candidate must state that the ad was: “Not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.” “Independent expenditure” is an expenditure made by any person in connection with a communication that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate or measure, or taken as a whole and in context, unambiguously urges a particular result in an election but which is not made at the behest of (e.g., in consultation, cooperation or coordination with) the affected candidate or committee. For further clarification see FPPC Regulation 18225.
Political Advertising Disclaimer Charts Click on these links to charts showing the disclaimer requirements for your communication. Candidates 1. Communications by Candidate Committees for their own Election 2. Independent Expenditure Ads on Candidates Ballot Measures 3. Ballot Measure Ads (by committees primarily formed for a state or local ballot measure) 4. Independent Expenditures Ads on Ballot Measures (by general purpose recipient committees, major donors, and independent expenditure committees)
A mass mailing -- over 200 substantially similar pieces of mail
- must include on the outside of the envelope: “Paid for by” and the name and address of the candidate or committee sending the mailing.
- The name and address must be in no less than 6-point type and in a color or print which contrasts with the background so that it is easily read.
- If a mass mailing is paid for by more than one candidate or committee, the name and address of the candidate or committee who is paying the greatest share of the mass mailing (including costs for designing, postage, and printing) must be placed on the outside of each piece of mail.
- If two or more candidates or committees pay equally for the mailer, the name and address of at least one of the candidates or committees must be shown on the outside, and the names and addresses of all candidates or committees paying for the mailer must appear on at least one insert.
When over 200 substantially similar emails are sent by a political committee
- The email must include “Paid for by and the committee name.”
- The committee’s street address is not required on mass emails sent by a committee, but may be included.
Disclaimers on political ads and literature must be:
- clear and conspicuous so as to be understood by the intended public.
- Written disclaimers must be printed clearly and legibly.
- Spoken disclaimers must be clearly audible and intelligible.
- Specific requirements for color contrast, print font size and time appearing on screen are listed in the disclaimer charts above.
Updating a disclaimer:
- When a committee’s name changes because of new top donors or otherwise, advertisement disclaimers must be revised.
- Television, radio, electronic media, or robocalls must be amended within five calendar days.
- Print media, mass mailings, or other tangible items must be amended every time an order to reproduce is placed.
Advertisements in Languages Other than English:
- Disclaimers on political advertisements should be written or spoken in the same language used in the advertisement.
Disclaimers do not have to be printed on every item:
- A disclaimer is not required on regular-size campaign buttons, pins, bumper stickers, or magnets. It is not required on pens, pencils, rulers, mugs, potholders, key tags, golf balls and similar small campaign promotional items where a disclaimer cannot be conveniently printed.
- The disclaimer is not required on t-shirts, caps, hats, and other articles of clothing; skywriting and airplane banners; or committee checks and receipts.
- For political party communications, the disclaimer must be included.
- For communications from other organizations to their members, a disclaimer is not required.
There are penalties for failure to comply:
- The penalty for failing to comply with the Act’s disclaimer requirements is a fine of up to $5,000 per violation.
- Any person who violates the disclaimer requirements concerning ballot measure and independent expenditure advertisements may be liable for a fine of up to three times the cost of the advertisement, including placement costs.
If you see violations:
- File a written complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission’s Enforcement division. firstname.lastname@example.org 1.866.275.3772 or 916.322.5660