Tuesday, June 21, 2016

This is our third blog post in our new Politics in Pop Culture series, where we’ll critique Hollywood’s take on politics and campaign finance. Have a tip, question, or suggestion for a future post? Let us know @GoberGroup

This blog post was written by Karen Blackistone Oaks, a partner with The Gober Group. She specializes in advising clients that are engaged in multi-faceted, multi-million dollar policy campaigns that incorporate a wide range of advocacy strategies.

A shadowy front group is out with a new attack ad against the leading candidate for Galactic Senate, Princess Leia. While we at the Gober Group are campaign finance experts with clients operating in every U.S. state, we aren’t familiar with the rules for running a campaign for senate in a galaxy far, far away. But if she were running for U.S. senate, here’s the advice we’d give this group.

“We should have a larger conversation about what you’re trying to accomplish here, and what sort of group Centrists for a Strong Republic is. There are two kinds of communications that get aired before elections: independent expenditures and electioneering communications. The reporting and disclaimer rules are similar, but not exactly the same.

Independent expenditures are communications that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate. This ad probably qualifies an independent expenditure. It references the election, her campaign, and her character and qualifications for public office. But if we’re going to treat this as an independent expenditure, do you want to close with something stronger, like “vote against Leia”? Maybe you don’t, that’s a political decision, but think about it because legally, you’re there already.

Electioneering communications are television or radio ads that air in the 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election and that make reference to a clearly identified candidate. To turn this ad into an electioneering communication, you should focus on, for example, calling Leia out for not opposing the policy against giving medals to Wookies and encouraging her to give Chewbacca an MTV Lifetime Achievement Award.

Whether this is an independent expenditure or an electioneering communication, the disclaimer is wrong. The written portion needs to appear on screen for at least 4 seconds and should read ‘Paid for by Centrists for a Strong Republic. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. Centrists for a Strong Republic is Responsible for the Content of this Advertising. www.centristsforastrongrepublic.galaxy.’ In addition, the disclaimer needs to be accompanied by a voice-over that says ‘Centrists for a Strong Republic is responsible for the content of this advertising.’”

We look forward to working with the Galactic Republic and representatives from all star systems to craft campaign finance rules for their elections that make more sense and are more easily understood than those we have in the U.S.