States Expand Definition of Electioneering Communications to Guard Against Corruption

February 7, 2013

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The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), better known as McCain-Feingold, strengthened federal campaign disclosure laws by requiring disclosure from groups that run ads mentioning the names of candidates in the months immediately proceeding an election. (Commonly, these ads urge viewers to call an elected official and express their views on a particular issue.) Before disclosure requirements were extended to these ads--known as "electioneering communications"--groups were able to avoid disclosure by refraining from explicitly calling for the election or defeat of candidates in their ads by using so-called "magic words" like "Vote for Smith" or "Oppose Brown."

While the federal electioneering communications definition applies only to broadcast, satellite, cable, and radio advertising, in state elections, direct mail, newspaper advertisements, and other media are often more central to electoral strategies.

Consequently, 25 states have adopted electioneering communication definitions, most of which extend to media beyond the federal definition. By tailoring their disclosure laws to the unique characteristics of their elections, states are guarding against corruption and giving voters the tools to make informed decisions at the ballot box.

STATE

MEDIA COVERED BY ELECTIONEERING COMMUNICATIONS DEFINITIONS

MEDIA COVERED

AK

Alaska Stat. § 15.13.400(3), (5)

Broadcast, Direct Mail, Internet

AL

Ala. Code § 17-5-2(4)

Broadcast, Direct Mail, Electronic Communication, Print

AZ

Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 16-901.01(A)

Billboards, Broadcast, Direct Mail, Internet, Print,

CA

Cal. Elec. Code § 304; Cal. Gov’t Code § 85310

Billboards, Broadcast, Print

CO

Colo. Const. art. 28 § 2(7)(a)

Broadcast, Billboard, Direct Mail, Door-to-Door, Print

CT

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-601b(a)(2)

Billboards, Broadcast, Print

DE

78 Del. Laws 400 (2012)

Broadcast, Direct Mail, Internet, Phonebank, Print, Signs

FL

Fla. Stat. § 106.011(18)(a)

Broadcast, Direct Mail, Phonebank, Print

HI

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 11-341(c)

Broadcast, Direct Mail, Print

IA

Iowa Code § 68A.401A(4)

Broadcast, Electronic Media, Phonebank, Print

ID

Idaho Code Ann. § 67-6602(f)(1)

Billboards, Broadcast, Direct Mail, Door-to-Door, Phonebank, Print

IL

10 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/9-1.14(a)

Broadcast, Internet

MD

Md. Code Ann., Election Law, § 13-307(3)(i)

Broadcast

MA

Mass Gen. Laws ch. 55, § 1

Broadcast, Direct Mail, Print

ME

Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 21-A § 1014(1), (2-A)

Billboards, Broadcast, Direct Mail, Flyers, Internet, Signs, Stickers

NC

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163-278.6(8j)

Broadcast, Direct Mail, Phonebank

OH

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3517.1011(A)(7)

Broadcast

OK

Okla. Stat. tit. 74, ch. 62, app. 257 § 1-1-2

Billboards, Broadcast, Direct Mail, Flyers, Print

RI

R.I. Gen. Laws § 17-25-3(14)

Broadcast, Print, Electronic Media

SC

S.C. Code Ann. § 8-13-1300(31)

Broadcast, Direct Mail, E-Mail, Phonebank, Ads Trough Other Media Costing ≥ $5,000

SD

S.D. Codified Laws § 12-27-17

Any communication disseminated, broadcast, or published costing ≥ $1,000

UT

Utah Code Ann. § 20A-11-101(12)

Billboards, Broadcast, Direct Mail, Internet, Print

VT

Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 17, § 2891, 2893

Billboards, Broadcast, Buttons, Direct Mail, E-Mail, Flyers, Phonebank, Print, Stickers

WA

Wash. Rev. Code § 42A.17.005(19)

Billboards, Broadcast, Direct Mail, Print

WV

W. Va. Code Ann. § 3-8-1A(11)

Broadcast, Print