If you were fortunate enough in this past election to have someone other than your campaign committee pay for the production of your radio or television ads — or for their air time — you might want to check your disclosures.
In an opinion handed down today, the state Court of Appeals ruled that sponsors of political ads aired on radio or television include both the producers of the message and the buyers of the media time, and that any such ads must disclose both in order to comply with the state’s “stand by your ad” law.
The case arose out of the 2010 battle for the 47th Senate District seat between Democrat Joe Sam Queen and Republican Ralph Hise. Hise won that election, and as we reported earlier, Queen later sued the Hise Committee for failing to disclose in television ads that the Republican party had purchased the air time for those ads.
Both candidates received contributions from their respective parties which they used for ad buys. In Queen’s case, the Democratic party wired money to his campaign committee, which in turn used those funds to buy media time. But for Hise, the Republicans sent funds directly to the media buyer, which then bought air time once Hise approved an ad.
Queen argued that because the Hise committee never had control over those funds, it could not disclose itself as the sponsor of ads; rather, the Republican party should have been identified as the sponsor.
But the Court of Appeals didn’t reach that argument, finding instead that both campaigns failed to comply with the law by not disclosing who paid for both the production and the air time for their respective messages.
“We hold that payment of production costs for the ‘message,’ here the videos, constitutes part of the sponsorship of an
‘advertisement’ under [the law],” wrote Judge Donna Stroud for a unanimous panel. . . . “Thus, where different entities or individuals jointly purchase the message, the air time, portions of either, or both, they must disclose joint sponsorship under this section.”
Because the law requires aggrieved candidates to have otherwise fully complied with its provisions — which Queen did not — he could not recover any damages from Hise.