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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: May 23, 2016 04:01 PM
From: Representative Harold A. English
To: All House members
Subject: I Do Not Consent To This Political Ad Legislation

I Do Not Consent To This Political Ad Legislation
Dear Fellow Legislators,
I ask you to join me in co-sponsoring my legislation that will provide Pennsylvania political candidates (C) with an opportunity to add a pre-release disclaimer to political ads paid for by non-candidate third parties (NCTP) who favor their candidacy. Being that some of the NCTP advertisements attack a candidate’s opponent (CO), the candidate will be able to take a position on the ad’s content and decide whether they wish to add the disclaimer, “I Do Not Consent To This Ad”. Pennsylvania candidates can demonstrate their integrity and moral conscience to the public and NCTP organizations.

At present, attack ads filled with unfavorable images, depictions and suggestions are run by candidates or third party organizations, often without truth or proof of fact. The candidates, with which the attack ad is designed to favor and regardless of their prior knowledge of the ad, can only respond with such statements as “I did not know that was occurring”, “I have no control over these NCTPs” or “well, that was a third party and not me running those negative ads”. This bill allows Pennsylvania candidates to at least weigh in on the ad, albeit without control over the NTCP on whether the ad ultimately runs or not.

Under my bill, all media outlets that receive compensation for running an attack ad would be required to determine which political candidate is favored in the negative ad and to allow that “favored” candidate at least 24 hours before ad release to direct the media outlet to include a disclaimer that “he/she does not consent to the ad”. If the “favored” candidate gives this instruction, media outlets would be required to include the “do not consent” statement as part of the ad in formats (voice, lettering, size, and duration) similar to that used for gambler addiction warnings in gambling advertisements.

My goal with this legislation is to allow candidates an opportunity to demonstrate their own level of personal integrity on how and what information is communicated to their benefit. My hope is that this bill will reduce the intensity of attack ads and maybe the old-fashion method of candidates stating credentials, qualifications, and background about themselves will become the new normal for political ads.

This would not affect negative ads chosen to be run by a candidate against an opponent candidate.

This bill would apply only to candidates running for an elected position within the Commonwealth and would not apply to national candidates such as the President and Vice President. Also, direct negative ads paid for by a Pennsylvania candidate’s election committee against his/her opponent would not be subject to this bill. The bill would be effective in 30 days from passage and hopefully, well before the November 2016 election.

I introduce this bill as opportunity to reverse the negative trend that has become, in my opinion, unacceptable and to give voters a measure of a candidate’s integrity through decision “not to consent” to attack ads paid for by a NCTP. This bill also gives candidates an opportunity to assert that these unfettered third parties are not to be viewed as speaking for them.

I ask for your support by joining me in this effort to improve the quality of information, received by Pennsylvania citizens, about those running for elected office in the Commonwealth.
Thank you, Hal

Introduced as HB2320