The Maine GOP has filed an FEC complaint against state Sen. Emily Cain, who’s running to represent Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. The complaint says that one of Cain’s TV ads “fails to include a clearly readable written statement of approval at the end of the commercial.”
At the end of the commercial, there is a written statement at the bottom of the screen that says, “Paid for by Cain for Congress” in white capital letters. While that statement is displayed, Cain is featured in the ad saying, “I’m Emily Cain and I approve this message.”
In the code of federal regulations, under a section called Communications; advertising; disclaimers it says “If the communication, including any solicitation, is paid for and authorized by a candidate, an authorized committee of a candidate, or an agent of either of the foregoing, the disclaimer must clearly state that the communication has been paid for by the authorized political committee.”
Based on just that language, the disclaimer at the bottom of Cain’s seems okay. The Cain for Congress Committee is the committee of the candidate, a fact that is even stated in the GOP’s complaint.
But in the campaign finance law, it says television ads must include “a statement that identifies the candidate and states that the candidate has approved the communication.”
The candidate has to verbalize the statement and the statement has to “also appear in writing at the end of the communication in a clearly readable manner with a reasonable degree of color contrast between the background and the printed statement, for a period of at least 4 seconds.”
So, the problem would be resolved if the statement at the bottom of the screen said the same thing as what Cain was saying. (“I’m Emily Cain and I approve this message.”)
Cain’s campaign manager, Amy Cookson, said Thursday afternoon that the TV ad would be fixed and the ad has since been removed from YouTube.
It’s somewhat easy to see how this mistake could be made if you look at the FEC website. In the explanation of what the candidates’ disclaimers have to say, the example used is:
“Paid for by the Sheridan for Congress Committee.”
So Cain’s disclaimer is almost identical to the example disclaimer on the FEC website. But those instructions are for general communications from candidates to voters. When the instructions get into TV ad disclaimers, it does say that the candidate has to both identify him or herself and approve the communication.
The GOP filed a similar complaint during Sen. Angus King‘s campaign in 2012. King’s TV ad said “Paid for by the Angus King for U.S. Senate Campaign” at the bottom of the screen during the last few seconds of the ad. King’s campaign adjusted the ad.