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Disclosures in Campaign Advertisements in the CA Political Reform Act

Radio and prerecorded telephonic advertisements are to disclose only the top two contributors of $50,000 or more

By Chris Micheli, February 8, 2022 3:31 pm

California’s Government Code, in Title 9, contains the Political Reform Act. Article 5, “Disclosure in Advertisements,” was added in November 1996 by Proposition 208, which falls under Chapter 4, dealing with campaign disclosures. Article 5 contains Government Code Sections 84501 – 84511.

Section 84501 contains definitions for the following terms: advertisement, cumulative contributions, top contributors, and earmarked. Advertisement is defined as “any general or public communication that is authorized and paid for by a committee for the purpose of supporting or opposing a candidate or candidates for elective office or a ballot measure or ballot measures.”

However, an advertisement does not include any of the following:

  • A communication from an organization, other than a political party, to its members.
  • An electronic media communication addressed to recipients, such as email messages or text messages, from an organization to persons who have opted in or asked to receive messages from the organization.
  • Any communication that was solicited by the recipient, including, but not limited to, acknowledgments for contributions or information that the recipient communicated to the organization, or responses to an electronic message sent by the recipient to the same mobile number or email address.
  • A campaign button smaller than 10 inches in diameter; a bumper sticker smaller than 60 square inches; or a small tangible promotional item, such as a pen, pin, or key chain, upon which the disclosure required cannot be conveniently printed or displayed.
  • Wearing apparel.
  • Sky writing.
  • Any other type of communication, as determined by regulations of the FPPC, for which inclusion of the disclosures required is impracticable or would severely interfere with the committee’s ability to convey the intended message due to the nature of the technology used to make the communication.

“Top contributors” is defined as “the persons from whom the committee paying for an advertisement has received its three highest cumulative contributions of $50,000 or more.”

Section 84501.1 prohibits the FPPC by regulation, policy, opinion, or advice letter, to construe or interpret any of sections of the PRA as allowing the FPPC to establish or maintain any thresholds in quantity or amount that are not specified in those sections.

Section 84502 requires specified advertisements that are paid for by a committee, other than a political party committee or a candidate-controlled committee established for an elective office of the controlling candidate, must include the words “Ad paid for by” followed by the name of the committee as it appears on the most recent Statement of Organization filed.

Section 84503 requires any advertisements paid for by a committee, other than a political party committee or a candidate-controlled committee established for an elective office of the controlling candidate, include the words “committee major funding from” followed by the names of the top contributors to the committee paying for the advertisement. If fewer than three contributors qualify as top contributors, only those contributors that qualify are to be disclosed. If there are no contributors that qualify as top contributors, this disclosure is not required.

Section 84504 provides that an advertisement paid for by a committee, other than a political party committee or a candidate controlled committee established for an elective office of the controlling candidate, that is disseminated over the radio or by telephonic means is required to include the disclosures at the beginning or end of the advertisement, read in a clearly spoken manner and in a pitch and tone substantially similar to the rest of the advertisement, and must be at least three seconds.

Radio and prerecorded telephonic advertisements are to disclose only the top two contributors of $50,000 or more unless the advertisement lasts 15 seconds or less or the disclosure statement would last more than eight seconds, in which case only the single top contributor of $50,000 or more is to be disclosed.

Section 84504.1 requires an advertisement paid for by a committee, other than a political party committee or a candidate-controlled committee established for an elective office of the controlling candidate, that is disseminated as a video, including advertisements on television and videos disseminated over the Internet, include the disclosures required at the beginning or end of the advertisement.

The disclosure required must be written and displayed for at least five seconds of a broadcast of 30 seconds or less or for at least 10 seconds of a broadcast that lasts longer than 30 seconds.

The written disclosure required must appear on a solid black background on the entire bottom one-third of the television or video display screen, or bottom one-fourth of the screen if the committee does not have or is otherwise not required to list top contributors, and must be in a contrasting color in Arial equivalent type, and the type size for the smallest letters in the written disclosure must be 4 percent of the height of the television or video display screen.

Section 84504.2 specifies that a print advertisement paid for by a committee, other than a political party committee or a candidate-controlled committee established for an elective office of the controlling candidate, is required to include the disclosures, displayed as follows:

  • The disclosure area must have a solid white background and be in a printed or drawn box on the bottom of at least one page that is set apart from any other printed matter. All text in the disclosure area must be in contrasting color and centered horizontally in the disclosure area.
  • The text must be in an Arial equivalent type with a type size of at least 10-point for printed advertisements designed to be individually distributed, including, but not limited to, mailers, flyers, and door hangers.
  • The top of the disclosure area must include the disclosure. The text of the disclosure must be underlined if there are any top contributors.
  • The top contributors, if any, must each be disclosed on a separate horizontal line separate from any other text, in descending order, beginning with the top contributor who made the largest cumulative contributions on the first line. The name of each of the top contributors must be centered horizontally in the disclosure area and not be underlined.
  • A committee must include the disclosure required, which must be underlined and on a separate line below any of the top contributors.
  • A committee must next include the text “Funding Details At [insert Commission Internet Web site],” which must be underlined and printed on a line separate from any other text.

Section 84504.3 applies to an electronic media advertisement if either of the following is true:

  • The advertisement is paid for by a committee other than a political party committee or a candidate-controlled committee established for an elective office of the controlling candidate.
  • The advertisement is paid for by a political party committee or a candidate-controlled committee established for an elective office of the controlling candidate, and is either paid for by an independent expenditure, or a advertisement supporting or opposing a ballot measure.

An advertisement made via a form of electronic media that allows users to engage in discourse and post content, or any other type of social media, can only be required to include the disclosures required in a contrasting color that is easily readable by the average viewer and in no less than 10-point font on the cover or header photo of the committee’s profile, landing page, or similar location and not be required to include the disclosure required on each individual post, comment, or other similar communication.

Section 84504.4 specifies that a radio or television advertisement that is paid for by a political party or a candidate-controlled committee established for an elective office of the controlling candidate, and that does not support or oppose a ballot measure and is not paid for by an independent expenditure, shall include the disclosure required subject to the following requirements:

  • In a radio advertisement, the words must be included at the beginning or end of the advertisement and read in a clearly spoken manner and in a pitch and tone substantially similar to the rest of the advertisement.
  • In a television advertisement, the words must appear in writing for at least four seconds with letters in a type size that is greater than or equal to 4 percent of the height of the screen.

An advertisement that is made via a form of electronic media that allows users to engage in discourse and post content, or any other type of social media, that is paid for by a political party or a candidate-controlled committee established for an elective office of the controlling candidate, and that does not support or oppose a ballot measure and is not paid for by an independent expenditure, must include the disclosure required.

Section 84504.5 provides that an advertisement that is an independent expenditure and paid for by a political party or a candidate-controlled committee established for an elective office of the controlling candidate must include the disclosures required.

Section 84504.6 provides definitions of the following terms: “online platform” and “online platform disclosed advertisement.” A committee that disseminates an online platform disclosed advertisement must do all of the following:

  • Upon requesting the dissemination, expressly notify the online platform through which the advertisement would be disseminated, using the online platform’s chosen notification method, that the advertisement is an advertisement.
  • Provide the online platform with the disclosure name of the committee.
  • Provide the online platform with the name of the candidate to which the advertisement refers and the office to which the candidate is seeking election, as applicable, or number or letter of the ballot measure and the jurisdiction to which the advertisement refers.
  • Provide the online platform with the name and identification number of the committee that paid for the advertisement.

 An online platform that creates a mechanism for a committee requesting dissemination of an online platform disclosed advertisement to expressly notify the online platform whether the advertisement is an advertisement and to provide all information necessary for the online platform to comply with the requirements of this section may rely in good faith on the information provided by the committee to the online platform to satisfy the online platform’s obligations.

Section 84504.7 prohibits a candidate or committee from authorizing or paying for an advertisement that is a text message, unless the disclosures are made, if the text message supports or opposes a candidate, or supports or opposes a ballot measure.

A committee, other than a candidate-controlled committee established for an elective office of the controlling candidate, must include the text “Paid for by” or “With” followed by either the name of the committee, or a hyperlink or Uniform Resource Locator (URL) for an internet website containing the disclosures required. The text of disclosures on the internet website must be in a color that reasonably contrasts with the background on which it appears and in no less than eight-point font.

A candidate-controlled committee established for an elective office of the controlling candidate must include the text “Paid for by” or “With” followed by the name of the candidate, followed by the word “For,” and followed by the name of the elective office sought.

An internet website that is hyperlinked must remain online and available to the public until 30 days after the date of the election in which the candidate or ballot measure supported or opposed by the advertisement was voted on.

Section 84505 provides that the committee placing the advertisement or persons acting in concert with that committee are prohibited from creating or using a noncandidate-controlled committee or a nonsponsored committee to avoid, or that results in the avoidance of, the disclosure of any individual, industry, business entity, controlled committee, or sponsored committee as a top contributor.

Section 84506.5 provides that an advertisement supporting or opposing a candidate that is paid for by an independent expenditure is required to include a statement that it was not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.

Section 84509 states that, if the order of top contributors required to be disclosed changes or a new contributor qualifies as a top contributor, the disclosure in the advertisement must be updated as specified.

Section 84510 specifies that a person who violates specified sections is liable in a civil or administrative action brought by the FPPC or any person for a fine up to three times the cost of the advertisement, including placement costs.

If a judgment is entered against the defendant or defendants in an action brought under this section, the plaintiff receives 50 percent of the amount recovered. The remaining 50 percent is deposited in the General Fund of the state. In an action brought by a local civil prosecutor, 50 percent is deposited in the account of the agency bringing the action and 50 percent is paid to the General Fund of the state.

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One thought on “Disclosures in Campaign Advertisements in the CA Political Reform Act

  1. If you don’t clean up voter rolls of dead and moved and outlaw ballot harvesting, what is the point? The election is decided before election day. There is zero point in voting for a state wide office.

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