I Wanna Know

PW exposes the tricks, scams and truth about the powers that be.

By Heather Duffy
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Apr. 21, 2004

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Q: Why do all the political campaign ads airing on TV these days include the line "I approved this message"? I don't remember ads in previous years with that line.

A: George W. Bush signed into law the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) in March of that year. BCRA updated and amended the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. Most people think of campaign finance law as McCain-Feingold, so named for major Senate sponsors John McCain and Russ Feingold. BCRA requires that "stand by your ad" disclaimers accompany certain radio and television ads. The disclaimer you're hearing straight from the candidates is part of the new rules regarding "electioneering communications" that went into effect late in 2002, so the current primaries and upcoming general election are the first to be affected by the changes. The Federal Election Commission describes electioneering communications as "certain television and radio communications that refer to a clearly identified federal candidate and are publicly distributed to the relevant electorate within 60 days prior to a general election or 30 days prior to a primary election for federal office." The 30-day primary rule actually applies nationwide, so as long as there's an election somewhere in the country you'll continue to hear the approval message in the ads. BCRA's disclosure requirements also seek to identify those who are bankrolling the ads. Electioneering communications cannot be paid for with funds from national banks, corporations, foreign nationals or labor organizations. The authorization messages themselves have specific requirements. For radio the ad must include a statement in which candidates identify themselves and say they okayed the message. For television the candidates must identify themselves and convey their approval of the message in one of two ways--either "through a full-screen view of the candidate making the statement or through a clearly identifiable photographic or similar image of the candidate that appears during the candidate's voice-over statement," says the legislation. The electioneering communication rules don't apply to the Internet or print advertisements--only to radio and TV. So unless you're a Luddite, you'll likely hear many more messages of approval before November.

What do you wanna know? Send queries and complaints to Heather M. Duffy at hduffy@philadelphiaweekly.com

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