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Cascadia Daily News political advertising guidelines

Political advertising in Washington is strictly regulated by the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission. Cascadia Daily News follows ALL guidelines published by the PDC in its Political Advertising Guide.

Cascadia Daily News will be particularly vigilant in following rules against false political advertising and rules requiring that a political ad clearly identifies who is paying for it. Here are those specific rules:

False political ads

As the PDC notes, “false political ads, published with actual malice, are illegal.” It is worth noting the PDC’s definition of “false political advertising:”

It is illegal to sponsor a political ad, with actual malice, that contains a statement constituting libel or defamation per se* if the statement:

  • directly or indirectly implies a candidate has the support or endorsement of any person or organization when the candidate does not (unless the statement is made by the person or organization),
  • is a false statement of material fact about a candidate,** or
  • falsely represents that a candidate is an incumbent

*See RCW 42.17A.335(2) for a definition of libel and defamation per se.

**Unless a candidate is making a statement about him or herself or the statement is made by the candidate’s agent about the candidate.

It is also illegal to:

  • use an assumed name for sponsor ID in a political ad;
  • distribute campaign material deceptively similar in design or appearance to the voter and candidate pamphlets published by the Secretary of State, or
  • use the state seal or its likeness to assist or defeat a candidate.
Identifying a sponsor

The PDC says that “sponsor identification requirements for political advertising are determined by who the sponsor is and what kind of ad is running.”

Here are the PDC sponsor identification requirements:

Determining who is the sponsor

The sponsor of a political ad — the committee or other person paying for the ad — usually must be identified. If a person acts as an agent for someone else or is reimbursed for the funds actually used to pay for the ad, the original source of the payment (or the person doing the reimbursing) is the sponsor.

The sponsor of an ad can also be the campaign supported by the ad, rather than the person or entity paying for the ad, if the ad will be reported by the campaign as an in-kind contribution. If this is done, use the words “Sponsored by.”

When no payment is demanded or the cost is not readily ascertainable, the sponsor is the person who arranges for the ad to be displayed or broadcast. It’s illegal to use an assumed name when identifying an ad’s sponsor.

Sponsor ID required information

A sponsor’s address is required for print ads and websites. For other types of ads, see Sponsor ID placement and size.

A candidate or candidate committee sponsoring an ad about the committee uses the words “paid for by” or “sponsored by” followed by the name of the candidate committee.

  • Recommended format: Sponsored by the Committee to Elect John Doe, 876 Main St., Olympia, WA

An individual, organization, business or political party committee must include its name on the ad.

  • Recommended format: Paid for by the Committee for Good Government, 123 Market St., Olympia, WA

A political committee that is not a bona fide party must include its Top 5 contributors’ names if the ad qualifies as an independent expenditure, electioneering communication or supports or opposes a ballot measure – and the ad costs at least $1,000.

  • Recommended format: Paid for by the Committee for Good Government, 123 Market St., Olympia, WA. Top 5 Contributors…

If the committee is established or directly maintained or controlled by another individual or entity, the sponsor ID must include the full name of the individual or entity.

  • Recommended format: Paid for by the Committee for Good Government (Gotham City Merchants Assn.), 123 Market St., Olympia, WA. Top 5 Contributors…

If the Top 5 includes any political committees, the sponsor must also list the Top 3 donors to the political committees. The Top 3 donors to PAC contributors must be three individuals or entities other than political committees.

The sponsor determines the Top 5 and Top 3 lists by considering the largest contributors who gave at least $1,000 during the 12 months before the ad appears. In the case of a tie among the top contributors, meaning multiple contributors have given the same amount, the political committee sponsor may choose which will be named.

  • Recommended format: Paid for by the Committee for Good Government, 123 Market St., Olympia, WA. Top 5 Contributors: John Doe, PAC #2, PAC #3, Jane Smith, PAC #4. Top 3 Donors to PAC Contributors: Bob Johnson, Acme Plumbing, XYZ Corporation.
  • If the advertisement meets the definitions for independent expenditures or electioneering communications, it also must indicate that a candidate was not involved in the ad.
  • Recommended format: No candidate authorized this ad. Paid for by the Committee for Good Government…
Other Cascadia Daily News guidelines

In addition to following all PDC rules, Cascadia Daily News also applies the following guidelines to political ads:

  • Political ads must be prepaid.
  • Ads must not appear typographically similar to Cascadia Daily News editorial material.
  • All political ads must be clearly labeled as advertising.
  • Ads must be reviewed by the executive editor before publication. 
  • Ads must not violate Cascadia Daily News’ Commitment to Our Community, specifically that everything we publish must be based in reality. Ads that contain disinformation or lies, in the sole judgment of Cascadia Daily News, will not be published.