Summary: It is essential for voters to be able to easily distinguish between paid election campaign communications from candidates and those not authorized by candidates. The Honesty in Election Campaign Disclosures Act specifies that authority lines on campaign ads must make it clear who has authorized such ads.
Drafting note: The section of this model which raises the most questions is the requirement of listing the “top five contributors” in certain cases. This has been implemented successfully for years in the District of Columbia. See D.C. Code 1-1163.15
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE
This Act shall be called the “Honesty in Election Campaign Disclosures Act.”
SECTION 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE
(A) FINDINGS—The legislature/council finds that:
1) Rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court have made it impossible to prevent unlimited election campaign spending by special interests. The only regulation allowed is public disclosure.
2) It is essential for voters to be able to easily distinguish between paid election campaign communications from candidates and those that are not authorized by candidates.
3) For communications from independent entities or political action committees, voters need to know who exactly paid for such materials and advertisements.
4) Existing campaign disclosure laws are not adequately specific.
(B) PURPOSE—This law is enacted to strengthen disclosure in election advertisements, defending truth as the cornerstone of our democratic system.
SECTION 3. HONESTY IN ELECTION CAMPAIGN DISCLOSURES
After section XXX, the following new section XXX shall be inserted:
AUTHORITY LINES ON CAMPAIGN MATERIALS
1) Every paid communication in a political election campaign must disclose the entity which has authorized the communication, in accordance with this section.
2) Every paid communication in a political election campaign shall include an authority line which is set apart from other content and is clear and conspicuous regardless of the medium in which the communication is transmitted.
3) In printed materials, the authority line must be clearly readable and at least as large as 12-point type. In electronic media where communication is both visual and oral, like a video, the authority line shall be presented both in writing and spoken.
4) For a political candidate, an authority line shall say: “This ad is authorized by [candidate’s name], candidate for [office sought].”
5) When a political action committee or independent expenditure effort promotes or opposes a candidate, that communication’s authority line shall say: “This ad is not authorized by any candidate. It is paid for by [name of committee or entity].” This requirement does not apply when a political action committee or independent expenditure effort promotes or opposes a ballot issue rather than a candidate.
6) When an independent expenditure effort is not registered with the [Board of Elections], the authority line shall also state the name and address of the person responsible for the paid communications.
7) If the name of a political action committee or independent expenditure effort listed in an authority line does not reasonably inform an average citizen who actually paid for the advertisement, then the authority line shall also state “The five largest contributors for this advertisement are:” followed by a list of the five largest contributors over the amount of $5,000 during the 12-month period before the date of the political advertising.
8) A series of initials, like “XYZ PAC,” or a generic name, like “citizens for better schools,” or a demonstrably false name, do not reasonably inform an average citizen and therefore they require a listing of contributors. A reasonably specific name, like “REALTORS Political Action Committee” or “Citizens for Charter Schools” does reasonably inform and does not require a listing of contributors. The [Board of Elections] shall publish examples and offer advisory opinions to ensure compliance with this subparagraph.
9) [Incorporate here existing exceptions for small promotional items like buttons, stickers, pens, refrigerator magnets, and the like.]
SECTION 4. EFFECTIVE DATE
This law shall become effective on July 1, 202X.