Could a Four-Second Mistake Cost a Candidate Thousands of Dollars?

Posted October 1, 2014 at 12:24pm

 Could a Four Second Mistake Cost a Candidate Thousands of Dollars?

Democrats took issue with Schilling’s disclaimer. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A disclaimer may seem like a rote few seconds in a campaign ad, but failing to follow the specific guidelines could have costly consequences for a candidate.

On Sept. 16, former Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., aired a 30-second ad titled, “How Could You?” that accused Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos of cutting benefits for military veterans. Democrats promptly sent a letter to television stations in Illinois’ 17th District, taking issue with the disclaimer on Schilling’s ad and arguing the Republican forfeited his right to the lowest unit charge for the remainder of the race.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a potential disclaimer problem in an ad by Rep. Brad Schneider’s campaign. But the Illinois Democrat’s ad appeared to toe Federal Election Commission guidelines while Schilling’s ad may have violated Federal Communications Commission guidelines.

There are some differences.

According to the FEC, disclaimers can be conveyed one of two ways:

  • A full-screen view of the candidate making the statement (11 CFR 110.11(c)(3)(ii)(A)); or
  • A “clearly identifiable photographic or similar image of the candidate” that appears during the candidate’s voice-over statement. (11 CFR 110.11(c)(3)(ii)(B)).
  • The communication must also include a “clearly readable” written statement that appears at the end of the communication “for a period of at least four seconds” with a “reasonable degree of color contrast” between the background and the disclaimer statement. 11 CFR 110.11(c)(3)(iii).

The Schilling ad appears to meet those requirements.