The Federal Election Commission ruled recently that it would not grant a waiver of the requirements for a verbal sponsorship identification on ads by an interest group, the Club for Growth, which wanted to run 10 and 15 second commercials opposing Federal candidates for Congress. Because of the abbreviated length of the commercials, the organization wanted the FEC to waive the requirement that there be a verbal identification of the sponsor as the commercial was too short to be able to fit such a message while still conveying their principle message.  The Club promised to have the required written disclosures on the ads, but the FEC said that this was insufficient as Federal law does not make any exception to the requirement for the verbal announcements on television commercials.  Thus, television stations should expect that third party ads dealing with Federal elections should contain both a written and verbal sponsorship identification.

The verbal identification need only identify the sponsor of the ad and state the sponsor’s responsibility for the ad.  Thus, a verbal statement that "The Club for Growth PAC is responsible for the content of this advertisement" is sufficient to meet the requirements of the rule, while the written statement needs to be more detailed – containing not only the verbal identification, but also an address or website for the sponsor and the fact that the ad was not authorized by any candidate.  The written material must be at least 4 percent of screen height and must last at least 4 seconds.  These are the FEC rules regulating the advertiser, which are very similar to the FCC rules for political advertisements.  For details on the FCC’s sponsorship identification requirements and other political broadcasting rules and laws applicable to broadcast stations, see our Political Broadcasting Guide.