Ethics Commission
City and County of San Francisco

Independent Expenditure Ads on Ballot Measures

III. Independent Expenditure Ads on Ballot Measures 

(Except Ads by Candidates and Political Party Committees)

CommunicationDisclaimer and Manner of Display
Print ads designed to be individually distributed including mailings, door hangers, flyers, faxes, posters, newspaper and magazine ads and oversized campaign buttons and bumper stickers (buttons ten (10) inches in diameter or larger and stickers sixty (60) square inches or larger)
  • “Ad paid for by [committee’s name]” (on file with Form 410 or 461)
  • “Committee major funding from [name(s) and dollar amount contributed of top three (3) donors of $5,000 or more]” additionally, if any of the top contributors are committees, [list the committees top two (2) contributors of $5,000 or more] (see example disclaimer) – each listed on a separate horizontal line, centered horizontally, in descending order, beginning with the largest contributor (not applicable to non-recipient committees)
  • Newspaper, magazine or other print advertisements that are twenty (20) square inches or less must only disclose the single top contributor of $5,000 or more
  • “Financial disclosures are available at sfethics.org.”
  •  Disclosure Format: All text must be in Arial equivalent font, in at least 14-point size, in a contrasting color, centered horizontally and, except for the names of top contributors, underlined. The names of top contributors may not be underlined and the text may not be condensed. If there are no top contributors, the “Ad paid for by” need not be underlined. All text must appear in a printed or drawn box with a solid white background at the bottom of at least one page and set apart from other printed matter
Print ads larger than those designed to be individually distributed, such as billboards and signs (including yard signs)
  • “Ad paid for by [committee’s name]” (on file with Form 410 or 461) followed by
  • “Committee major funding from [name(s) and dollar amount contributed of top three (3) donors of $5,000 or more]” additionally, if any of the top contributors are committees, [list the committees top two (2) contributors of $5,000 or more] (see example disclaimer) – each listed on a separate horizontal line, centered horizontally, in descending order, beginning with the largest contributor (not applicable to non-recipient committees)
  • “Financial disclosures are available at sfethics.org.”
  • Disclosure Format: All text must be in contrasting color and in Arial equivalent font. The font must be a height of at least five percent of the advertisement, meaning that each line must be at least five percent of the advertisement, in a printed or drawn box with a solid white background on the bottom of the advertisement that is set apart from any other printed matter and shall not be condensed to be narrower than a normal non-condensed Arial equivalent type
Radio ads, telephone calls and audio only electronic media ads
  • “Ad paid for by [committee’s name]” (on file with Form 410 or 461)
  • “Committee major funding from [name(s) and dollar amount contributed of top three (3) donors of $5,000 or more]” additionally, if any of the top contributors are committees, [list the committees top two (2) contributors of $5,000 or more] (see example disclaimer) – each listed on a separate horizontal line, centered horizontally, in descending order, beginning with the largest contributor (not applicable to non-recipient committees)
  • “Financial disclosures are available at sfethics.org.”
  • Disclosure Format: Must be spoken clearly for at least three (3) seconds at the beginning of the ad or call, in a pitch and tone substantially similar to the rest of the advertisement
    • Exception: The disclaimer does not need to speak the dollar amount of contributions
Television and video ads (including those disseminated over the Internet)
  • “Ad paid for by [committee’s name]” (on file with Form 410 or 461)
  • “Committee major funding from [name(s) and dollar amount contributed of top three (3) donors of $5,000 or more]” additionally, if any of the top contributors are committees, [list the committees top two (2) contributors of $5,000 or more] (see example disclaimer) – each listed on a separate horizontal line, centered horizontally, in descending order, beginning with the largest contributor (not applicable to non-recipient committees)
  • “Financial disclosures are available at sfethics.org.”
  • Disclosure Format: All text must be centered horizontally in the disclosure area, in a contrasting color, in Arial equivalent type and, if there are top contributors, must be underlined except as specified below The size for the smallest letters must be four percent of the height of the display screen and must be displayed at the beginning of the ad for at least five seconds of a broadcast of 30 seconds or less or for at least 10 seconds of a broadcast longer than 30 seconds. If a video is distributed as an electronic media advertisement and is longer than 30 seconds, the disclosures must be displayed at the beginning of the advertisement. If the television or video ad is shorter than the required disclosure display time, the disclosure may be displayed for the length of the advertisement
  • Disclosure must appear on a solid black background on the entire bottom one-third (1/3) of the display screen, or bottom one-fourth (1/4) of the screen if the committee has no top contributors
  • Each top contributor must be disclosed on a separate horizontal line separate from other text, may not be underlined and may not be condensed or have the spacing between characters reduced to be narrower than a normal non-condensed Arial equivalent type, unless doing so is necessary to keep the name of a contributor from exceeding the width of the screen
Electronic media ads that are a graphic, image, animated graphic, or animated image that an online platform hosting the ad allows to link to an internet website not covered below (except video ads, see above)
  • “Who funded this ad?” or “Paid for by” or “Ad paid for by” text included or displayed as a hyperlink, icon, button or tab in a contrasting color and font size that is easily readable by the average viewer for the duration of the advertisement*
    • Must link to a website containing the “Ad paid for by” and “Committee major funding from” disclosures in a contrasting color and in no less than 8-point font
    • “Committee major funding from” may not appear in all capital letters
    • Must remain online until thirty (30) days after the date of election
Social media ads
  • “Ad paid for by,” and “Committee major funding from,” and “Financial disclosures are available at sfethics.org” disclosures in a contrasting color that is easily readable by the average viewer and in no less than 10-point font on the cover or header photo of the committee’s profile, landing page, or similar location; disclosures are not required on each individual post or comment
  • The disclosures must be visible on the cover or header photo when the profile, landing page, or similar location is viewed from any electronic device that is commonly used to view this form of electronic media including, but not limited to, a computer screen, laptop, tablet or smart phone. If this is impracticable only a hyperlink, icon, button, or tab to an internet website containing the required “Ad paid for by,” and “Committee major funding from” disclosures is permissible
    • “Committee major funding from” may not appear in all capital letters
    • Not required when the only expense or cost of the communication is compensated staff time unless the social media account was created only for the purpose of advertisements under the Act
Website and email
  • “Paid for by,” “Committee major funding from,” and “Financial disclosures are available at sfethics.org” disclaimers in a contrasting color and in no less than 8-point font at the top or bottom of the email message and every publicly accessible page of the Internet Web site
    • “Committee major funding from” may not appear in all capital letters
Electronic media ads that are audio only
  • See disclaimer requirements for radio ads above
Paid Spokesperson: Payment of $5,000 or more to an individual for individual’s appearance in a ballot measure ad
  • In addition to other disclaimers, include: “[spokesperson’s name] is being paid by this campaign or its donors”
  • Printed, televised or video ad: shown continuously in highly visible font except when the disclosure for television and video ads above is being shown
  • Radio broadcast or phone message: spoken in clearly audible format
Paid Spokesperson: Payment of any amount to an individual portraying a member of a licensed or certified occupation (e.g., nurse, firefighter, lawyer)

  • Exception: If the paid individual is actually a member of the occupation portrayed, the committee may omit this disclaimer. The committee must maintain documentation of the individual’s license or certification
  • In addition to the disclaimer above, include: “Persons portraying members of an occupation in this advertisement are compensated spokespersons not necessarily employed in those occupations”
  • Printed or televised ad: shown continuously in highly visible font
  • Radio broadcast or phone message: spoken in clearly audible format
Text messages sent using mass distribution technology
  • “Paid for by” or “With” followed by the name of the committee, or a hyperlink or URL for an internet website containing the following disclosures:
    • “Committee major funding from [name(s) and dollar amount contributed of top three (3) donors of $5,000 or more]” additionally, if any of the top contributors are committees, [list the committees top two (2) contributors of $5,000 or more] (see example disclaimer) – each listed on a separate horizontal line, centered horizontally, in descending order, beginning with the largest contributor (not applicable to non-recipient committees)
    • A statement that the advertisement was not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate
    • The text of the disclosures on the internet website shall be in a color that reasonably contrasts with the background on which it appears and in no less than 8-point
  • If “With” is used:
    • The individual sending the text shall identify themselves by including: “(name of the individual) with (name of committee or hyperlink or URL)”
    • A disclosure using “With” may appear anywhere in the text message, including conversational content, and need not appear as a separate statement apart from the content of the advertisement
  • Top Contributors: A committee that has top contributors must comply with the following:
    • Immediately following the name of the committee or the hyperlink or URL, the text message shall also include the text “Top funders:” followed by the names of the top two contributors of $5,000 or more to the committee paying for the advertisement, separated by “&” or “and.”
    • The names of the top two contributors may be spelled using acronyms, abbreviations, or other shorthand in common usage or parlance. If the contributor is an individual their first and last name shall both be used
    • If the disclosure would exceed 35 characters, the text should disclose only the single top contributor of $5,000 or more to the committee paying for the advertisement
    • The text message is not required to include the name of a top contributor after the text “Top funders:” If the text message includes the name of the committee paying for the advertisement and the committee’s name includes the name of that top contributor
    • The text shall be in a color that reasonably contrasts with the background on which it appears and in a font size that is readable by the average viewer
    • For a committee that has top contributors and uses individuals who are unpaid volunteers to send text messages with the assistance of mass distribution technology, the text message sent by these individuals are not required to disclose the top two contributors, but the text message shall include a disclosure stating that the text message is being sent by a volunteer
  • An internet website that is hyperlinked shall remain online and available to the public until 30 days after the election
  • For text message exchanges consisting of a sequence of multiple text messages sent on the same day the disclosure is only required on the first text message in the sequence that supports or opposes a candidate or measure
  • Text required to be included in a text message must be in a color that reasonably contrasts with the background on which it appears and in a font size that is readable by the average viewer

The guidance above incorporates requirements imposed pursuant to state and San Francisco law.  The information on this chart does not carry the force of law. If there are any discrepancies between the chart and state or local law or their corresponding regulations and opinions, the law, regulations and opinions will control.

Revised: March 2020

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