A Narrow and Appropriate Response to Cloaked Electioneering: Measuring the Impact of the 60-Day Bright-Line Test on Issue Advocacy

November 4, 1987

The right of all persons to advocate controversial political issues and to press for the furtherance of these issues in Congress, legislatures or among the public is a cherished and constitutionally-necessary principle of democracy. So is the right of the American public to have reasonable access to information about candidates when casting ballots, including an opportunity to know who are the key players financing advertisements for or against candidates. These principles work hand-in-hand in providing robust political speech and an informed electorate.

In recent years, particularly in the 2000 election, party committees and independent groups have increasingly sought to blur the distinction between issue advocacy and candidate electioneering, thereby evading the responsibilities associated with campaigning-such as informing the public who is paying for campaign ads-all the while casting a pall over the intent and purposes of issue advocacy in general. The distinction has become blurred through the dramatic rise of electioneering ads disguised as issue advocacy, widely known as “sham issue ads.”