Tolbert: Does Pryor’s Latest TV Ad Violate FEC Regulations? (UPDATED)

by Jason Tolbert ([email protected]) 401 views 

You may have seen the latest TV ad from the Pryor for Senate campaign called “Linda.”  It is the typical MediScare ad that Democrats love to run with a respectable looking lady sitting at her kitchen table with a laptop talking about how Tom Cotton wants to “turn Medicaid into a voucher system.”  Pretty standard Democratic talking points.

But a reader of mine noticed that the disclosure at the end of the ad seems to not comply with the guidelines from the Federal Election Commission regarding “television communications authorized by candidates.”  The FEC guidelines state…

(ii) A communication transmitted through television or through any broadcast, cable, or satellite transmission, must include a statement that identifies the candidate and states that he or she has approved the communication. The candidate shall convey the statement either:

(A) Through an unobscured, full-screen view of himself or herself making the statement, or

(B) Through a voice-over by himself or herself, accompanied by a clearly identifiable photographic or similar image of the candidate. A photographic or similar image of the candidate shall be considered clearly identified if it is at least eighty (80) percent of the vertical screen height.

The “Linda” ad does not include an unobscured, full-screen view of Sen. Pryor making the statement, so it does not meet (ii)(A) and as you can see in the screen shot of the ad posted below, the photo used is nowhere near “eighty (80) percent of the vertical screen height.”  So it certainly appears to be out of compliance.

I am not a lawyer, so I asked one. Sean Cairncross is a federal election attorney with Hotzman Vogel Josefiak.  He also formerly served as the Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

“The FEC regulations are clear on this. If the candidate does a voice-over for the ‘stand by you ad’ statement the visual must be at least 80% of the vertical screen height,” said Cairncross who reviewed the ad at my request. “The ‘postage stamp’ sized picture next to the disclaimer is part of a separate, and different, FCC requirement for lowest unit charge. It does not satisfy the FEC standard.”

I have sent a request to the Pryor Campaign for a response and to see what they plan to do about the ad’s apparent non-compliance.  I will let you know if I hear back.  You can view the full ad linked here on the Pryor Campaign’s YouTube page.

UPDATE – He also has the same issue with this ad called “Courtney.”


UPDATE II – The Pryor Campaign has still not responded to my request for comment, but intrepid reporter Elicia Dover with KATV was able to get them on the record.

“The @PryorForSenate camp tells me new versions of the ads have been sent to stations, updated with a larger picture of Pryor,” tweeted Dover going on to post – “Pryor camp says the small picture of him was a ‘minor oversight’ re: FEC requirement @TolbertReport, pointed out. It’s been fixed.”

Good work by Dover, but as for Team Pryor – well gosh, where to begin?

Of course, the Pryor campaign is going to say that the mistake they made was “minor,” but they admitted that they broke federal election law.  That’s a big deal.

And it is sort of hard to understand exactly how this was an “oversight.”  I mean this ad was not made by some volunteer on his MacBook.  Considerable time, resources, and money go into these ads. They have gotten this correct in other ads – such as this one – so what makes this ad different?  It seems to me that the disclaimer was purposefully made smaller so that the viewer mainly sees his website address attacking his opponent Tom Cotton instead of the disclaimer.

But I suppose minor details such as complying with federal laws are not that big a deal to Team Pryor.  I suppose leaving it still posted to their campaign’s YouTube page is another “minor oversight.”

Speaking of minor details.  Team Pryor had yet another “minor oversight” today at a press conference meant to again highlight their campaign’s attack website on Cotton with their continued MediScare campaign.  But the sign on the podium in front of him read – – which links to the wrong URL.  Perhaps the campaign staff was scrambling to correct their first minor oversight and missed this one.

But Cotton folks picked up on it.  The URL now links to Tom Cotton for Senate’s homepage.

Wow – Team Pryor might want to work on these “minor oversights;”  they are starting to stack up.

Photo of Sen. Pryor’s presser from Fox 16…