Of course, unless we have some control over campaign presentations, no amount of clean money will guarantee a clean campaign. So the second part of this new Bill of Rights will involve the campaigns themselves.
I’m now going to shock you. Background to being shocked:
Many years ago, I knew someone who wrote TV commercials for a major advertising agency. Here’s the shocker: she told me all sales commercials developed for TV — drugs, cars, chain restaurants, etc. — had to be factual. Or else.
Did you know that?
If your company makes a claim that your face cream causes age spots to fade, you’d better have your TV spokeswoman say, “After six weeks, I saw that my age spots had faded.” That is, you the company can’t claim your product causes age spots to fade — because it doesn’t — but you can claim that a user of your product perceives her age spots have faded.
Get the difference?
If you make that first fact-free claim (i.e., you can’t offer lab-tested proof), you’ll be challenged by a face cream competitor who isn’t making that false claim and doesn’t want you to be making it. And you’ll have to correct your very expensively produced commercial by producing another very expensive commercial.
All of this is governed by The National Advertising Review Board and its National Advertising Division, advertising’s self-regulatory bodies which provide critical procedures for consumers and competitive advertisers to challenge the facts in a product ad.
Blew me away. We consumers seem to care more about confirmed facts re moisturizers than politicians’ statements.
Additionally, the Federal Communications Commission has an established set of rules and regulations for advertising — even for political advertising:
…the FCC administers political programming rules for radio, television, cable television and direct broadcast satellite. These rules address whether equal opportunities for political opponents are warranted, candidate access issues, what candidates can be charged for political advertising, and sponsorship identification. The FCC also operates a database that allows the public to determine whether a communication sent via a broadcast station, cable system and/or satellite system can reach 50,000 or more people in a particular congressional district or state.
All right. Let’s grab hold this. It’s hard to tell if the FCC does much actively to apply these fairly meager rules. (Someone once told me the USSR had an exemplary written Constitution. Problem was, it was never applied.)
I spent many months before this past election reading outrageously dishonest political campaign ads which were broadcast without qualification and often without an immediate corrective from the politician who was lied about.
So let’s do all these agencies and the USSR one better, with…
Campaign advertising rules.
• Each campaign ad will be reviewed for accuracy and truth by a non-partisan panel comprised of lawyers, historians, economists and ad people. Each ad presented for review must be accompanied by documentation to prove every fact cited.
• Each ad produced by a national political committee, a dark money PAC or other peripheral political group will be subject to the same rules as campaign ads, re accuracy.
• There must be the following statement made at the top of each commercial: “What follows is a political opinion commercial paid for by [fill in]. It may not be straightforward and factual. It is your responsibility to weigh these statements against others and decide whether they should influence you or not.” At the end crawl, each commercial will state not simply the name of the organization but its political affiliations and a list of major contributors.
• Not only will our “truth in advertising” commission review and demand proof for every ad, each ad must be presented to the opposing campaign in advance of airing or publication. [This is my personal favorite rule.]
• Every campaign or dark money PAC ad to be run on TV must be accompanied by a full-page print ad in a minimum of three major newspapers – national or local, depending on the election. This is so that we can read at our chosen pace the political affiliations and major contributors to that ad. (And if the ad does not adhere strictly to the “social content” requirement but tries to sneak in a smear of or support for a candidate, nix. Ad can’t run.)
• Each campaign or organization paying for the TV-and-print ad combination must buy equal time and space for opponents. [Well, maybe this is my fave rule.] If an ad is aired in a slot for a particular show, say a half-hour sitcom, that same show must run the answering ad in the same half-hour period. So not only will the commission review and approve each ad – and give the national advertising board and network lawyers a shot at critiquing, too – so will the opponent, who will have time to prepare an answering ad to be run in the same time slot. The opponent’s ad runs second.
You see what this does? It creates a debate forum out of every political TV ad, and adds yet another fiscal control aspect to political campaigning. Unless you can afford two TV time slots — one for you and one for your opponent — you won’t be running that ad.
Decisions, decisions, decisions. How best to spend your cap money?
Next: The actual campaign