Political advertising definition

Political advertising must meet certain standards under state law. We've collected information that candidates, political committees, and others need to know.

First, let's explain what kind of advertising is covered: 

  • Political advertising is defined as 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" as referenced above 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 test messages to specific recipients within a 30-day period is an example of mass communication.
  • Political advertising does not include letters to the editor, news or feature articles, editorial comment or replies to editorials in a regularly published newspaper, periodical, or on a radio or television broadcast where payment for the printed space or broadcast time is not normally required.  [WAC 390-05-290]

Most political advertising must include a message that explains who paid for it (sponsor identification). The law also dictates where and how the sponsor ID message is displayed. Campaigns and most other advertising sponsors must report to the PDC how much money was spent on advertising, which candidates or ballot measures benefited from the advertising and, in some cases, when the advertising was presented to the public.

Learn what you need to know about sponsor ID and disclosure requirements. 

Sponsor ID

Sponsor identification, also known as a disclaimer, is a crucial piece of political advertising that gives the public information about who sponsored the ad. Learn what details you need to include and how to make sure the sponsor information is communicated the right way.

Sponsor ID: What to include 

Sponsor ID placement and size 

Items exempt from sponsor ID

Internal political communications - Sponsor ID

Other guidelines

Ad sponsors also need to know what details about candidates they should include, what are the restrictions on false claims, when they can borrow from candidate websites without prompting an in-kind contribution, and other details about online advertising. 

Describing candidates in ads

False political advertising

Republishing online political advertising 

Online campaign activities