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Political Advertising Cheat Sheet

Posted

WHO IS COVERED?

Note first, the sponsor of an ad bears the responsibility of complying with the disclosure requirements of the statute, not the newspaper.

The disclosure requirements do not apply to an individual who makes uncoordinated expenditures in a candidate election totaling less than $1,000.  A coordinated expenditure is one that is made in concert or cooperation with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, a candidate campaign committee, the agent of the candidate, or the agent of the candidate campaign committee. G.S. § 163-278.39C(1).

The disclosure requirements do not apply to an individual placing ads related to a referendum.  G.S. § 163-278.39C(2).

WHAT’S IN THE AD?

The ad must state “Paid for by …” and then name the candidate, candidate campaign committee, political party organization, political action committee, referendum committee, individual, or other sponsor.  G.S. § 163-278.39.

 If the sponsor is created pursuant to G.S. 163-278.19(b), the “name” must be the name of the corporation, insurance company, business entity, labor union or professional association whose officials, employees, or members established the committee. If not, the name must be or include the economic interest principally represented by the committee's organizers or intended to be advanced by use of the committee's receipts.  G.S. § 163-278.7(b)(1).

If the sponsor is an individual, list all sponsors who are paying for the ad.

If the ad clearly supports or opposes a particular candidate, the ad must state whether it is authorized by the candidate:  “Authorized by [name of candidate], candidate for [name of office]” or “Not authorized by a candidate.” This does not apply if the candidate or candidate’s campaign committee places the ad.  G.S. § 163-278.39(a)(6).

If the ad was coordinated with a particular candidate and opposes another particular candidate, the ad must state which candidate is intended to benefit from the ad.  G.S. § 163-278.39(a)(7).

HOW BIG DOES THE AD HAVE TO BE?

The disclosure must be 5% of the height of the ad, but the statute puts parameters on that.  It must always be at least 12 point type, and even if the ad is so big that 5% yields a type size larger than 28 point, it only has to be 28 point.  G.S. § 163-278.39(b).

WHAT CAN YOU CHARGE AND HOW CAN IT BE PAID?

 You cannot charge more than your customary rate for comparable advertising.  G.S. § 163-278.18(a).  You also cannot favor one candidate over another with your rates.  G.S. § 163-278.18(b).  You can give volume or other discounts, so long as they are equally available to all political ad sponsors.  G.S. § 163-278.18(b). 

You cannot accept cash payments for political ads.  “All expenditures for media expenses shall be made by a verifiable form of payment.”  G.S. § § 163-278.8(e).  Checks and credit cards are fine.

WHAT RECORDS DO YOU HAVE TO KEEP?

You must get written authority for each expenditure from each candidate, treasurer or individual making or authorizing an expenditure, and those records are deemed “public records” by statute.  G.S. § 163-278.17(a).  Thus, anyone can come ask to review those records during regular business hours.  Note that the statute does not require the specifics of the ad or the schedule.  For that reason, you may consider keeping those details on a different document.

You must keep the authorizations for two years from the election to which they relate.  G.S. § 163-278.35. 

For answers to specific questions about, don’t hesitate to call the NCPA Legal Hotline:  (919) 833-3833.