Iowa candidate web videos need "paid for" attribution statements

Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board Executive Director Megan Tooker has determined that state law requiring “paid for by” attribution lines for political advertising also applies to videos posted on free websites such as YouTube. David Chung, a member of the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee, had filed an ethics complaint against Brad Anderson, the Democratic candidate for secretary of state. (Chung is from Cedar Rapids, as is Anderson’s GOP opponent Paul Pate.) Anderson’s television commercial contains the standard attribution line, but some of his web videos did not. After the jump I’ve posted the relevant portion of Iowa Code.

Tooker informed Anderson that in her opinion, campaign videos available online should also include a “paid for” statement. Anderson’s campaign immediately altered the videos to comply. Jason Noble reported for the Des Moines Register, “So long as Anderson republishes the videos with appropriate attribution statements or publishes a corrective notice in the newspaper, he will not face a fine or penalty.”

Responding to my request for comment, the Anderson campaign noted, “Although state law is ambiguous related to requiring disclaimers on free YouTube videos, in the abundance of caution we have added disclaimers to all of our YouTube videos and will continue to moving forward.”

In a press release yesterday, Iowa GOP Co-Chairman Cody Hoefert thundered, “we now learn that Brad Anderson either ignored Iowa’s election laws or does not believe they apply to him. Either way, this only goes to underscore the fact that he is not someone Iowans can trust to uphold the integrity of their elections.” News flash for Hoefert: the Anderson campaign was able to point to many web videos that lacked “paid for” statements while promoting the Iowa GOP and/or Republican candidates and office-holders. For instance, Governor Terry Branstad’s campaign produced a video featuring Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds in order to drum up 2014 Iowa caucus attendance. In that video, she urged supporters to help elect Republicans up and down the ticket in 2014. Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has also promoted his candidacy through web videos without attribution statements. The Iowa GOP itself produced a video promoting State Auditor Mary Mosiman without any attribution statement.

Obviously, Chung and the Iowa GOP were only playing out a stunt to gain an edge for Pate in what looks like a close contest for secretary of state. Nevertheless, it’s useful for Tooker to clarify that this portion of state law applies to web videos as well as to television commercials.  

Iowa Code 68A.405:


68A.405  ATTRIBUTION STATEMENT ON PUBLISHED

     MATERIAL.

        1. a.  For purposes of this subsection:

        (1)  “Individual” includes a candidate for public office who

     has not filed a statement of organization under section 68A.201.

        (2)  “Organization” includes an organization established to

     advocate the passage or defeat of a ballot issue but that has not

     filed a statement of organization under section 68A.201.

        (3)  “Published material” means any newspaper, magazine,

     shopper, outdoor advertising facility, poster, direct mailing,

     brochure, internet website, campaign sign, or any other form of

     printed general public political advertising.

        b.  Except as set out in subsection 2, published material

     designed to expressly advocate the nomination, election, or defeat of

     a candidate for public office or the passage or defeat of a ballot

     issue shall include on the published material an attribution

     statement disclosing who is responsible for the published material.

        c.  If the person paying for the published material is an

     individual, the words “paid for by” and the name and address of the

     person shall appear on the material.

        d.  If more than one individual is responsible, the words

     “paid for by”, the names of the individuals, and either the addresses

     of the individuals or a statement that the addresses of the

     individuals are on file with the Iowa ethics and campaign disclosure

     board shall appear on the material.

        e.  If the person responsible is an organization, the words

     “paid for by”, the name and address of the organization, and the name

     of one officer of the organization shall appear on the material.

        f.  If the person responsible is a committee that has filed a

     statement of organization pursuant to section 68A.201, the words

     “paid for by” and the name of the committee shall appear on the

     material.

        2.  The requirement to include an attribution statement does not

     apply to any of the following:

        a.  The editorials or news articles of a newspaper or magazine

     that are not paid political advertisements.

        b.  Small items upon which the inclusion of the statement is

     impracticable including, but not limited to, campaign signs, bumper

     stickers, pins, buttons, pens, political business cards, and

     matchbooks.

        c.  T-shirts, caps, and other articles of clothing.

        d.  Any published material that is subject to federal

     regulations regarding an attribution requirement.

        e.  Any material published by an individual, acting

     independently, who spends one hundred dollars or less of the

     individual’s own money to advocate the passage or defeat of a ballot

     issue.

        3.  The board shall adopt rules relating to the placing of an

     attribution statement on published materials.  

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