Watchdogs Urge FEC to Uphold Mobile Phone Ad Disclaimer Requirements & Conduct Long Overdue Rulemaking

Today, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, strongly urged the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to uphold federal disclaimer requirements for political advertisements on mobile phones and further pressed the agency to conduct a related rulemaking originally proposed by the FEC in 2011. The watchdog groups filed comments in response to the FEC’s draft Advisory Opinions 2013-18, produced in response to a request from Revolution Messaging LLCseeking an exemption from the disclaimer requirements.

The Commission will consider multiple draft opinions at its Thursday meeting and the comments of the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 promote the adoption of Revised Draft A, which concludes that the advertisements in question do not qualify for exemptions but that certain alternative means of delivering the disclaimers is acceptable (e.g., linking to a website that contains the complete disclaimer). The comments strongly condemned Draft B, which concludes that the ads are exempt from the disclaimer requirements, warning that its adoption would eviscerate disclaimer requirements for political ads delivered via mobile phones—a rapidly growing type of advertising.

“These disclaimer requirements have been consistently upheld by the Supreme Court, which has repeatedly recognized the vital importance of informing voters what person or group is bankrolling the political speech in advertisements,” said Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “It is long past time for the Commission to return to and complete the rulemaking it proposed in 2011 on disclaimer requirements for Internet advertisements and to also address advertising utilizing Internet-connected emerging technologies such as smartphones. These technologies should not be exempted and the Commission needs to make the applicable disclaimer specifications clear, instead of wasting considerable time and resources repeatedly answering advisory opinion requests on this topic.”

To read the comments filed today by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, click here.