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Straight Talk on Campaign Finance: Separating Fact from Fiction Paper No. 6

Issue Advocacy By Groups

Published: January 1, 2000

One of a series of six papers produced by the Brennan Center regarding Campaign Finance Reform: Issue Advocacy by Groups

> download pdf here. 


· There is no debate over whether genuine issue ads should be limited or banned. They
should not. The question is whether the pending bills have successfully drawn a precise line
between issue advocacy, on the one hand, which is not subject to regulation, and campaign
advocacy, on the other hand, which clearly and constitutionally is.

· The Brennan Center study of political television advertising conclusively proves that the
Snowe-Jeffords provisions in the McCain-Feingold bill work with enormous precision. The
test succeeds in drawing the right line—accurately identifying group-sponsored campaign
ads 99 percent of the time.

· Under Snowe-Jeffords, any television or radio ad paid for by an independent group is considered
to be an electioneering ad if it mentions or depicts a candidate within 60 days of a
general election or 30 days of a primary and is targeted to the relevant electorate.

· The Brennan Center study found independent groups aired 57,863 ads in the final 60 days
of the 2000 election, which mentioned a candidate and therefore would have been covered
by the Snowe-Jeffords provision.

· Of those 57,863 group-sponsored ads, only 331 airings—fewer than 1 percent —were
genuine issue ads primarily aimed at providing information on a policy matter.

· Ninety-nine percent of the group-sponsored ads that mentioned a candidate in the final 60
days of the 2000 election were, in fact, electioneering ads.

· The ads captured by Snowe-Jeffords would be subject to the same disclosure requirements
and contribution limits as other campaign advocacy.