Politicians Can Legally LIE About Their Opponents

Pinocchio is a boy who lies like a politician.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Truth in Advertising laws do NOT apply to political campaign ads.

Why not?

  1. Political ads are not commercial in nature.
    1. They do not aim to sell anything for money.
    2. They only want you to buy into a free idea: their message.
  2. Political ads are protected by the First Amendment.
    1. They’re treated like political free speech.
    2. 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.


Published by JoAnn Chateau

Website owner and administrator of “Progressive Graffiti.”

6 thoughts on “Politicians Can Legally LIE About Their Opponents

  1. Another excellent post, JoAnn. This is an extremely important subject. Nina Turner was accused of being against universal healthcare, against raising the minimum wage, and against immigration reform when she is one of the strongest advocates in the country for all three. While much of the lying in politics is lying by omission, these were outright lies.

    Truth in political ads should be required and lying should carry criminal penalties. The legal framework should be much like the laws which require truth in the purchase and sale of financial securities.

    Something like this:

    It shall be unlawful for any person, directly or indirectly, by the use of any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce, or of the mails or of any form of communication,

    (a) To employ any device, scheme, or artifice to mislead any voter or to misrepresent the views of any candidate,

    (b) To make any untrue statement of a material fact or to omit to state a material fact necessary in order to make the statements made, in the light of the circumstances under which they were made, not misleading, or

    (c) To engage in any act, practice, or course of business which operates or would operate to deceive any person,

    in connection with any political campaign.

    Violations should require time in federal prison. Imagine how that would change American political campaigns.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, but it’s mostly Rule 10b-5 which the Securities and Exchange Commission enacted in 1934 pursuant to its authority under the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 to prevent securities fraud. I just modified it a bit.

        We know rules like this could be enforced because the SEC has been doing it for 87 years.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Truth in choosing a political candidate is at least as important as truth in choosing a stock or a bond to buy. I think most Americans would agree.

        Liked by 1 person

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