Ethics Commission
City and County of San Francisco

Independent Expenditure Ads on Ballot Measures

Print Copy

III. Independent Expenditure Ads on Ballot Measures 

(Except Ads by Candidates and Political Party Committees)

Communication Disclaimer 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)
  • “Paid for by [committee’s name]” (on file with Form 410 or 461)
  • “Committee major funding from [names of top three donors of $20,000 or more]” 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 $50,000 or more
  • “Financial disclosures are available at sfethics.org.”
  • Disclaimer Format: Text must be in Arial equivalent font, in at least 12-point size, in a contrasting color, and located 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
Billboards and signs (including yard signs)
  • “Paid for by [committee’s name]” (on file with Form 410 or 461)
  • “Committee major funding from [names of top three (3) donors of $20,000 or more]” each listed on a separate horizontal line, centered horizontally, or on one line separated by commas, in descending order, beginning with the largest contributor (not applicable to non-recipient committees)
  • “Financial disclosures are available at sfethics.org.”
  • Disclaimer Format: Text must be in Arial equivalent font with a height of at least five percent (5%) of the advertisement on a solid background with sufficient contrast that is easily readable by the average viewer
Radio ads, telephone calls and audio only electronic media ads
  • “Paid for by [committee’s name]” (on file with Form 410 or 461)
  • “Committee major funding from [names of top three (3) donors of $20,000 or more]” in descending order, beginning with the largest contributor (not applicable to non-recipient committees)
  • “Financial disclosures are available at sfethics.org.”
  • Disclaimer Format: Must be spoken clearly for at least three (3) seconds at the beginning or end of the ad or call, in a pitch and tone substantially similar to the rest of the advertisement
    • Radio and prerecorded telephone ads must disclose only the top two (2) contributors of $20,000 or more unless the ad lasts fifteen (15) seconds or less or the disclaimer statement would last more than eight (8) seconds, in which case only the single top contributor must be disclosed
Television and video ads (including those disseminated over the Internet)
  • “Paid for by [committee’s name]” (on file with Form 410 or 461)
  • “Committee major funding from [names of top three donors of $20,000 or more]” in descending order, beginning with the largest contributor (not applicable to non-recipient committees)
  • “Financial disclosures are available at sfethics.org.”
  • Disclaimer Format: Text must be in a contrasting color and in Arial equivalent type and must be underlined.The size for the smallest letters in the disclaimer must be four percent (4%) of the height of the display screen unless this causes the name of any top contributors to exceed the width of the screen or causes the disclaimers to exceed one-third (⅓) of the display screen, the type size of the name of the top contributor shall be reduced until the name fits on the width of the screen or the entire disclaimer fits within one-third (⅓) of the display screen, but in no case shall the type size be smaller than 2.5 percent (2.5%) of the height of the screen.Disclaimer must appear on a solid black background on the entire bottom one-third (⅓) of the display screen, or bottom one-fourth (¼) of the screen if the committee has no top contributors. Disclaimer must be displayed at the beginning or end of the ad for at least five (5) seconds of a broadcast of thirty (30) seconds or less or for at least ten (10) seconds of a broadcast longer than thirty (30) secondsTop contributors must be centered horizontally on a separate horizontal line and is not required to be underlined and may not appear in all capital letters
Electronic media ads not covered below (except video ads, see above), and email
  • “Who funded this ad” text as a hyperlink in a contrasting color and font size that is easily readable by the average viewer*
    • Must hyperlink to a website containing the “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
    • “Committee major funding from” may not appear in all capital letters
    • Must remain online until thirty (30) days after the date of election*This text is not required if including it is impracticable. In such circumstances the ad need only include a hyperlink to a website containing the website disclaimers.
Social media ads
    • “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 on the committee’s profile, landing page, or similar location and is not required to include disclaimers on each individual post or comment
      • “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
  • “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
    • “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

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: May 17, 2018

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