The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Truth in Advertising laws do NOT apply to political campaign ads.
- Political ads are not commercial in nature.
- They do not aim to sell anything for money.
- They only want you to buy into a free idea: their message.
- Political ads are protected by the First Amendment.
- They’re treated like political free speech.
- Candidates may sue the makers of a political ad for slander, but defamation suits are very difficult to prove.
Most people viewing political ads on TV never suspect that outright lies may be spoken. Some viewers may even mistake political ads for public service announcements.
Be sure to inform your family and friends that political campaign ads are NOT required to observe Truth in Advertising laws. Political campaign ads allow politicians to legally lie about their own accomplishments and to lie about their opponent.
Political campaign advertisements are designed to persuade viewers to vote for a particular candidate. Don’t be fooled or manipulated. Do a little research on your own. Check the candidate’s record. The League of Women Voters (LWV) offers tips on how to judge a candidate. (However, ignore the example meant to illustrate unsubstantiated “guilt by association.” Accepting large donations from ‘big money interests” is not an association. It’s the first step in a transaction, and creates a conflict of interest.)
Would you like politicians to stay clear of negative ad campaigning? Then support Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). Candidates have an incentive to speak fairly about their opponents:
With RCV, candidates also compete for second choice votes from their opponents’ supporters which lessens the incentive to run a negative campaign. In RCV contests, candidates do best when they reach out positively to as many voters as possible, including those supporting their opponents.– FairVote
Meanwhile, don’t accept everything you hear without reliable corroboration. When it comes to politics, take the time you need to question and challenge.