Potentially Misleading Campaign Ads from Outside Groups Flood the Nation’s Television Airwaves

A record number of campaign advertisements are flooding the television airwaves in communities across the nation. Many of these ads are being run by “outside groups” that are supposedly independent from a candidate. These “outside group” ads (sometimes referred to “third-party” ads) threaten to spread misinformation as studies have shown that these ads contain a higher level of both attacks and inaccurate statements than candidate campaign ads.

The League of Women Voters has long worked to ensure that voters receive fact-based, nonpartisan information about our elections, often partnering with the media to do so. We have heard from voters that they desperately want factual information so they can make their own best decisions. That is the goal of the League’s Truth in Campaign Advertising project. We are concerned that this current environment - so filled with toxic charges, contradictory statements and deceptive practices - leaves voters so confused and disgusted that at a minimum, they can’t make their own best decisions and at worst they may decide not to vote at all.

Television stations have a legal right to reject or request changes to any advertisement, other than from a qualified candidate, if the station believes the ad is inaccurate or misleading. Stations already have processes they use for consumer product ads. So this is not a new practice for them. We are asking them to be as vigilant about outside group ads as they are about product ads.

Leagues, and individual League members, have a critical role to play in ensuring that their local stations understand and exercise their obligation and right.

The League of Women Voters’ Truth in Campaign Advertising project focuses on local Leagues working with and supporting their local television broadcasters to minimize false and misleading campaign ads. Leagues can do this in two main ways. They can encourage stations to exercise their responsibility to ensure the campaign ads they run are accurate. Leagues can also urge TV stations to air, as part of their news segments, stories that provide viewers with nonpartisan, objective analysis of the campaign ads being run on that station, thereby helping the voting public to be discerning viewers of the campaign ads they see