Watchdogs to FEC: Keep mobile disclaimers 

Watchdogs to FEC: Keep mobile disclaimers 

The battle lines over disclaimer requirements for mobile advertising are coming into focus ahead of the Federal Election Commission's Feb. 27 meeting.

Last fall, Revolution Messaging, a mobile advertising firm, asked the Commission to treat cellphone ads the same as bumper stickers or campaign buttons and make them exempt from federal disclaimer requirements. Keegan Goudiss, the company’s head of digital advertising, said at the time that the disclaimer requirement made the ads cumbersome and ineffective.

On Tuesday, two good government groups, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 (both nonpartisan, nonprofits), filed comments on the case that urged the FEC to uphold the disclaimer requirements. The groups claim the ads don't qualify for exemptions but that "certain alternative means of delivering the disclaimers is acceptable."

“These disclaimer requirements have been consistently upheld by the Supreme Court, which has repeatedly recognized the vital importance of informing voters what person or group is bankrolling the political speech in advertisements,” Paul S. Ryan, a lawyer for the Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement.

Still, Ryan urged the FEC to issue new guidance on digital campaigning.  

“It is long past time for the Commission to return to and complete the rulemaking it proposed in 2011 on disclaimer requirements for Internet advertisements and to also address advertising utilizing Internet-connected emerging technologies such as smartphones," he stated. "These technologies should not be exempted and the Commission needs to make the applicable disclaimer specifications clear, instead of wasting considerable time and resources repeatedly answering advisory opinion requests on this topic.”

In addition to the Revolution Messaging case, the FEC will consider an advisory opinion on dormant campaign accounts brought by the Solano County United Democratic Central Committee when it meets on Thursday.

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