House Candidate May Have Faulty Disclaimer in Campaign Ad

by Nathan L. Gonzales September 5, 2014 · 10:51 AM EDT

Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider unveiled his first television ad Tuesday in his competitive race for re-election in Illinois’ 10th District. The 30-second spot tries to rally Democratic voters by attacking the tea party — but the ad also might have a faulty disclaimer that runs afoul of campaign finance law.

Twenty-one seconds into “Together,” the congressman begins his disclaimer: “I’m Brad Schneider and I approve this message because we’re all in this together, accountable to each other.” But the voiceover is coupled with two shots: one of part of the side of Schneider’s face in a shadow as he drives a car and a second shot of him quickly entering a building through a revolving door and barely showing his face.

According to the Federal Election Commission, disclaimers can be conveyed one of two ways:

  • A full-screen view of the candidate making the statement (11 CFR 110.11(c)(3)(ii)(A)); or
  • A “clearly identifiable photographic or similar image of the candidate” that appears during the candidate’s voice-over statement. (11 CFR 110.11(c)(3)(ii)(B)).

This particular ad doesn’t fulfill the first requirement and may not fulfill the second requirement. You can see an example of a more typical disclaimer fulfilling the second set of guidelines in one of Schneider’s ads from 2012.

According to one campaign finance attorney, the latest ad is a close call as to whether it complies with the FEC’s disclaimer rules. Because of that, the attorney added that the FEC is probably unlikely to levy a civil penalty against the campaign if a complaint were to be filed.

“We believe, based on content of the ad and that particular shot, that there is zero doubt that it is a clearly recognizable image of Brad Schneider,” said Democratic media consultant Eric Adelstein, who created the ad.

In Schneider’s highly competitive race against former Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill., both parties are looking for the slightest opening to get an advantage in the race. The Rothenberg Political Report rates the race as Pure Tossup.