Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

The Authority on Campaign Ads

Posted by David Keelan on Monday, August 14, 2006

Update: I got an email from a reader who confirmed that they saw this ad too.

This is a rather nebulous post.

Who is aware of the nuances of campaign finance law?  Hopefully, our candidates for public office are.  I would imagiine that if one ran before or for the first time they would thoroughly read the campaign guide provided by the State or Local board of elections.

With that said I need to go to the Double T diner on Rt 40 (near Bethany Lane) in Ellicott City and check this out for myself.

Friends of mine told me they were eating dinner this evening at the Double T and noticed that a certain candidate for Howard County Sheriff (who will remain unnamed until I can see this for myself) is running an ad on the Double T’s place mats.

These ads run for 3 months because they print them up in batches which could prove to be a headache for this candidate.

Well the point about this particular ad is that it doesn’t have an authority line.

What is an authority line and why is it required?

The authority line must state the name and address (unless the address is on file with the State Board or a county election board) of the person is responsible for production and distribution of the campaign material.  More information here.

ie: By authority of Joe Smith Treasurer, John Smith for Sheriff

Now I don’t know what the purpose of the Authority Line is but the State takes if very seriously.  Section 13.2 Penalties

A person convicted of publishing campaign material without the required authority line (see Section 11.1 of this Summary Guide) may be fined up to $1,000, or imprisoned for up to 1 year, or both, and is ineligible for public or party office for 4 years. § 13-602(a)(9) and (b) of the Election Law Article.

Does anyone understand why the State is so strict and why it exists?  Honestly, I would like to know rather than speculate.

The campaign finanace laws are very clear, guidance is provided to school principles, and the State actually prosecutes those who overlook or ignore this statute.  But I can’t find where it states that the “Authority Line exists because…”

My best research leads me to believe that the authority line is to protect the integrity of the campaign process.  For example, someone could launch an anti-candidate campaign.  Without an authority line they could remain anonymous and voters would have no idea who was behind the campaign.  For pro-candidate or anti-candidate campaign ads the voter has a right to know who is authorizing the advertisement.

I did find this report from the State Office of the Attorney General office.

In 2004 a $500 fine was assessed a States Attorney who was running for Judge for failing to have an authority line on a campaign flyer.   St. Mary’s States Attorney Richard Fritz ran in the March 2004 primary for Judge that year and lost, although the State Prosecutor’s report doesn’t name the States Attorney who was fined.

This candidate could have 3 months of hurtin’ on them unless the Double T can turn over those place mats pretty darn quick.  If another candidate for Sheriff eats at the Double T and sees the ad (their are two Sheriff candidates running ads), or is reading this they may decide to make an issue of it.

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One Response to “The Authority on Campaign Ads”

  1. Carrie said

    FYI – a certain candidate in District 13 has had ads for a few weeks in “Coffee News” – that free paper in Riverside and other places – without an authority statement. I tried to contact her campaign about it, since I want her to win, to no avail.

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