Davis Wright Tremaine has developed a State Political Advertising Law Survey, which we can make available to our clients covering all 50 states or a subset of selected states
With the 2018 election season rapidly approaching, legislators across the country are focused on filling gaps in election laws that have been alleged to have allowed Russian intelligence officials to utilize digital advertising tools to attempt to sway the 2016 presidential election. Two states, Washington and Maryland, recently enacted new laws regulating political advertising, and new legislation has been introduced in California, Connecticut, and New York, among other states. These laws expand definitions of election-related advertising and impose affirmative disclosure requirements on the media and other entities accepting advertisements to create and maintain searchable online databases about who paid for political ads. The Washington State Attorney General also recently brought suit against Facebook and Google, alleging that they failed to keep required records regarding political advertising and failed to make these records available for public inspection. Because both state and federal law requirements may impact advertising in the upcoming election cycle, recent developments create a need for companies that sell and distribute political advertising to understand the nuances of and obligations imposed by state election laws across the country.
Geared toward sellers and distributors of ads, the survey provides our clients information on the definition of political advertising in each state, disclaimer requirements for ads, transparency requirements, and the penalties for violation of the law.
A few key takeaways from the survey:
- Certain state laws place disclaimer requirements on advertisements related to ballot initiatives and other political “questions,” as well as ads that advocate for or against particular candidates.
- Some states require distributors of political advertising to retain records regarding the payments for the ads for several years following the election, and to make those records available for inspection by the public.
- Some election laws apply to broadcast, cable TV, and print advertisements only; others are broad enough to cover digital media ads as well. Companies need to know what their obligations are with respect to accepting political advertising.