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Campaign Finance Laws Allow Advertisers Plenty of Leeway

Laura Cueva |
August 31, 2010 | 12:37 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

The Race for California
The Race for California
Magic words aren't just for magic tricks anymore. 

You might feel bombarded by television campaign ads on a daily basis, but, it turns out, most of them are not actually considered "campaign ads." True campaign ads, according to campaign lawyers, must include the use of "magic words," or words that clearly support or oppose one candidate over another, such as the words "vote for" or "vote against."

When these words aren’t included, ads are just considered educational, blurring the line that has come to define advocacy (or the overt promotion of the election or defeat of a candidate).

So what does all of this mean?

When corporations, groups, or nonprofits don’t use the magic words, they don’t have to disclose themselves as donors to a particular campaign. As voters, then, we don’t get to know who’s ponying up the cash to pay for a politician’s campaign.

This issue came up recently when the Small Business Action Committee, a nonprofit group, put out what appears to be an attack ad against Jerry Brown. But, as the Supreme Court defined it, the ad is simply educational.

What do you think?



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