Attribution Information – (See Mont. Code Ann. § 13-35-225 for legal details)
All election and electioneering communications are legally required to include attribution that identifies the entity that paid for the communication.
What is an election communication? An "Election communication" means the following forms of communication to support or oppose a candidate or ballot issue:
- -a paid advertisement broadcast over radio, television, cable, or satellite;
-a paid placement of content on the internet or other electronic communication network;
-a paid advertisement published in a newspaper or periodical or on a billboard;
-a mailing; or printed materials;
-a paid texting campaign.
The term does not mean:
- -an activity or communication for the purpose of encouraging individuals to register to vote or to vote, if that activity or communication does not mention or depict a clearly identified candidate or ballot issue;
-a communication that does not support or oppose a candidate or ballot issue;
-a bona fide news story, commentary, blog, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, internet website, or other periodical publication of general circulation;
-a communication by any membership organization or corporation to its members, stockholders, or employees; or a communication that the commissioner determines by rule is not an election communication
What is an electioneering communication? 'Electioneering communication' means a paid communication that is publicly distributed by radio, television, cable, satellite, website, newspaper, periodical, billboard, mail, or any other distribution of materials, that is made within 60 days of an election, that does not support or oppose a candidate or ballot issue, that can be received by more than 100 recipients in the district voting on the candidate or ballot issue, and that:
- -Refers to one or more clearly-identified candidates in the election
- -Depicts the name, image, likeness, or voice of a candidate
- -Refers to a political party, ballot issue, or other question on the ballot.
What must the attribution say?
The attribution must clearly identify the name and mailing address of the entity that paid for the communication. Committee attribution must also include the name of the Treasurer. For example:
Paid for by Joe Coffee for Senate
P.O. Box 123
Helena, MT 59604
Paid for by Support our Schools
Linda Evans, Treasurer
1234 Education Way, Grass Range, MT 59032
Paid for by Pretty Good Manufacturing Co.
Susan Smith, CEO
1000 Industry Drive
Billings, MT 59101
**In partisan elections, candidates must also state their party affiliation or include the party symbol.**
The communications must clearly and conspicuously include the attribution. The attribution should be easy to find on the communication, and have a sufficient text size and contrast to be readable. Attributions on one-sided campaign signs should include the attribution on the printed “front” side of the sign.
If your campaign material is too small to include an attribution, you must file a copy of the material or item with the Commissioner of Political Practices with attribution at the time the material is published.
If you fail to attribute an election communication, the person financing the communication must notify the Commissioner of Political Practices within two days of discovering the error and make every reasonable effort to bring the material into compliance. No materials should be disseminated that are not in compliance. Any communications must be pulled until they have been corrected.
Q: Are paid political texts legal?
A: Certain paid texts, mass texts, or robo-texts without attribution that relate to state or local candidates or issue violates Montana law. A separate federal law called the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is enforced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC accepts complaints about robo-texts and enforces federal law.
On October 19, 2018, the Commissioner sent out this information in response to local concerns over political robotexts. The press release reiterated that Montana law requires that all election communications, electioneering communications, and independent expenditures include an attribution disclosing who the communication is funded by, and contact information for the source (Mont. Code Ann. § 13-35-225). The Commissioner will enforce the requirements of the attribution laws on all political communications including text messages.
Robo-texts are regulated by the federal TCPA law. Under the TCPA, restrictions on political campaign-related robocalls or robotexts vary based on whether a call is delivered to a landline telephone, a cell phone, or certain protected telephone lines such as emergency or toll-free lines, or lines serving hospitals or similar facilities. Political campaign-related autodialed or prerecorded voice calls, including autodialed live calls, prerecorded voice messages, and text messages, are:
-Not allowed to cell phones, pagers, or other mobile devices without the called party's prior express consent.
-Not allowed to protected phone lines such as emergency or toll-free lines, or lines serving hospitals or similar facilities, unless made with the called party's prior express consent.
-Allowed when made to landline telephones, even without prior express consent.
Robotexts - text messages generated through autodialing - are considered a type of call and fall under all robocall rules. As text messages generally go to mobile phones, they require the called party's prior express consent if they are generated using autodialing.
Q: Who do I contact if I receive an election communication without attribution?
A: If the materials come from a state or local candidate or ballot issue, contact the candidate, the committee, or the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices at 406-444-2942 or email email@example.com. If the material is for a federal congressional candidate, contact the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). Please note that FEC attribution requirements differ from Montana’s statute.