By Dennis Hetzel, Executive Director

With the primary election coming up in May, it’s a good time for a refresher in Ohio laws on political advertising.

A 2012 change in Ohio Revised Code 3517.20 affects advertising by state and local candidates in Ohio. It removes the requirement that a candidate, campaign fund or campaign committee include the full name and address of its chairperson, treasurer or secretary.  Instead, only the name of the entity would have to be included in a conspicuous place. This information remains available in other public records.

For more detail on Ohio requirements, here are other answers to some frequent questions:

Q: What other requirements are in ads placed for Ohio candidates and issues?

A: Ohio Revised Code 3517.20 is your key reference, and it covers all forms of advertising.  Just saying “paid political advertisement” isn’t good enough.

Advertising for political action committees on behalf of state and local candidates, ballot issues, etc., should include the name and residence or business address of the chairperson, treasurer or secretary.

In the case of expenditures on behalf of candidates or ballot issues but not authorized by the candidate or ballot-issue committee itself, the advertisement must clearly state that the ad is not authorized by the candidate or committee and clearly identify the entity that has paid for the ad. (ORC 3517.105)

Q: What about an advertisement for someone seeking a seat on a political party’s central committee, presidential elector or convention delegate?

A: The advertiser can choose to put that information in the ad, but it is not required. The statutory definition of “candidate” in Ohio Revised Code 3517.01(C)(3) specifically says it does not cover central committee candidates, convention delegates and others tied to a political party’s internal operations.

Q: What has to be stated in advertisements for federal candidates such as U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate?

A: The Federal Election Commission has a helpful, detailed guide on political advertising.  To summarize:

  • If authorized and financed by the candidate: The disclaimer notice must identify who paid for the message. Example: Paid for by the Smith for Congress Committee.”
  • If authorized by but not financed by the candidate: The disclaimer must identify who paid and that the candidate authorized the message. Example: Paid for by the Ohio Republican State Committee and authorized by the Smith for Congress Committee.”
  • Messages not authorized by the candidate: The disclaimer must identify who paid and state that the ad was “not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.”

There are other nuances as well that this guide explains, such as language during pre-nomination and post-nomination periods.

The disclaimer must be “clear and conspicuous,” meaning that it must be easy to read or hear and placed where it can’t be easily overlooked. In print, the disclaimer has to be in a printed box set apart from other contents in a clearly legible type size with reasonable contrast between the type and the background.

If ONA members have questions about political advertising in Ohio, feel free to contact me, dhetzel@ohionews.org or 614-486-6677

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