Supplement to Political Advertising Guide


Political Advertising

Advertising displays, newspaper ads, billboards, signs, brochures, articles, tabloids, flyers, letters, radio or TV presentations, or other means of mass communication, used for the purpose of appealing, directly or indirectly, for votes or for financial or other support or opposition in an election campaign.  "Mass communication" is a message intended to reach a large audience through any of the methods described above as well as periodicals, sample ballots, websites, emails, text messages, social media, and other online or electronic formats enabling the exchange of communication.  Sending 100 or more identical or substantially similar letters, emails or text messages to specific recipients within a 30-day period is an example of mass communication.

Independent Expenditure (IE)

  1. the ad supports or opposes a candidate for state, local, or judicial office;
  2. the ad is paid for by someone other than a candidate, a candidate's committee or agent;
  3. the sponsor does the advertising completely independently of any candidate support in the ad (or the opponent of the candidate opposed), or a candidate's committee or agent;
  4. the sponsor did not receive the candidate's encouragement or approval to produce the ad; and
  5. the ad costs at least $1,000, or the cost of the latest ad when combined with the cost of earlier ads supporting or opposing the candidate, totals $1,000 or more.

Electioneering Communication (EC)

  1. clearly identifies at least one candidate for state, local, or judicial office;
  2. appears within 60 days of an election in the candidate's jurisdiction;
  3. is produced through radio, TV, postal mailing, billboard, newspaper, or periodical; and
  4. either alone, or in combination with other communications by the sponsor identifying the candidate, has a fair market value of $1,000 or more.

A sponsor of an independent political ad regarding a ballot measure and a candidate must prorate the cost of the ad to determine if the candidate portion meets either 1-5 or A-D above.  If so, the sponsor must comply with the disclosure requirements explained in this brochure.


Sponsor Identification Requirements:

The statement "No candidate authorized this ad.  It is paid for by (name, address, city, state)" must be part of the ad.  A political committee that is not a bona fide party committee must also include:

  • "Top Five Contributors" followed by a list of the names of the five contributors who made the largest contributions in excess of $700 to the committee during the 12 months before the ad appears; AND
  • The full name of the individual or entity that established or directly maintains or controls the sponsoring committee (or indirectly maintains or controls the sponsoring committee through the formation of one or more political committees).

In the case of a tie among the top contributors meaning multiple contributors have given the same amount resulting in more than five "top" contributors, the political committee sponsor may choose which five will be named.  A committee that tracks contributions according to the use intended by the contributor may identify the top five contributors giving for that purpose when making independent expenditures or electioneering communications supporting or opposing a candidate, as opposed to identifying the overall top five contributors to the committee.

Recommended format:  No candidate authorized this ad.  It is paid for by the Committee for Good Government (Gotham City Merchants Assn.)  Top 5 Contributors...

Size & Placement Requirements for:

Written Ads & Websites :

Candidate party preference and sponsor requirements must:

  • appear on the first page of the communication in at least 10 point type, or
  • for billboards or posters, appear in type at least 10% of the largest size type used in the ad, and
  • be set apart from any other ad text.  Do not screen or half-tone the text.

Exceptions:  Small online ads with limited characters may display the required elements in an automatic display such as a mouse tip/rollover or nonblockable pop-up that remains visible for at least 4 seconds OR on a webpage that is conspicuously linked to the small ad and reached by one click of the mouse.  Yard signs no bigger than 8' x 4', clothing such as T-shirts, and bumper stickers no bigger than 4" x 15" are exempt from the sponsor requirements.  The PDC's Political Advertising Guide has a more  complete list of exempt items.

Broadcast ads, videos, telephone and online audio ads:

illustration - telephoneCandidate party preference and required disclosures must be clearly identified.  An abbreviation may be used when naming a Top 5 contributor, provided the full name of the contributor has already been clearly spoken in the ad.  Exception:  Bona fide political party committees are required to include the "no candidate authorized this ad" statement in broadcast ads, but not the Top 5 contributors or controlling entity.

Alternate Option for TV and Other Mediums with a Visual Image:

illustration - TVThe "paid for by" statement and political committee disclosures may appear in print, so long as they are visible for at least 4 seconds, appear in letters greater than 4% of the visual screen height, and have a reasonable color contrast with the background.


Candidate's Party Preference

Always include the party preference of a candidate running for partisan office.  The party preference must be clearly identified in broadcast ads.


thumbnail image of disclosure form Disclosure

Electioneering Communication:

Electronically file PDC Form C-6 within 24 hours of when the EC appears to the public.

These sponsors of ECs will likely be required to file the C-6 and additional reports:

In-state political committee:  C-1pc, C-3, C-4

Out-of-state political committee:  C-5

Lobbyist:  L-1, L-2, and

Grass Roots Lobbying Campaign:  L-6

Examples and illustrations explaining how to disclose electioneering communications.

Independent Expenditure:

When ad appears within 21 days of an election and costs at least $1,000, regardless of who is the sponsor:

electronically file or otherwise deliver C-6 to the PDC within 24 hours of when the ad appears to the public.

For all other independent expenditures, unless sponsored by a political committee:*

electronically file or otherwise deliver C-6 to the PDC within 5 days of spending $100 or more.

*Political committees report expenditures for these independent expenditures only on the C-4 report.

This brochure contains information specific to sponsor identification and disclosure requirements for independent expenditures and electioneering communications.  See the PDC's Political Advertising Guide for general requirements pertaining to all political advertisements.  The information contained in online instructions has been distilled from the requirements set out in RCW 42.17A and Title 390 WAC, as well as the Public Disclosure Commission's declaratory orders and interpretations. Care has been taken to make the instructions accurate and concise.  Nevertheless, the instructions cannot be substituted for the applicable laws and rules.