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Herald Sun: "Bill Calls for OK of Political Ads Online"

April 24, 2005
Press Release

Washington, D.C. - By Kris Kitto, The Herald-Sun Washington Bureau

8:18 pm

"I approved this message!" may be a new Internet pop-up window on your computer screen, if Rep. David Price has his way.

Price, D-4th District, and Republican Rep. Michael Castle from Delaware have introduced a bipartisan "Stand by Your Ad Act," which would require that political advertisements appearing online be held to the same standards as those on television and radio.

Under federal law, traditional campaign ads must include an appearance or voice-over of the sponsoring candidate expressing approval of the message.

Price said the legislation is designed to keep campaign ads truthful. He thinks the Internet will become a more popular way for candidates to communicate with voters.

"We're trying to anticipate here what these new campaign media look like," he said.

If last year's presidential race is any indication, future campaigns will continue to integrate the Internet into their communications strategies.

Former presidential candidate Howard Dean, now chairman of the Democratic National Committee, gained prominence by creating a campaign Web log, www.blogforamerica.com.

Dean's online efforts inspired the formation of more than 400 political community groups, some of which still meet today.

Julie Barko-Germany, deputy director of the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at The George Washington University, said Dean's campaign deftly used a communications medium that most other politicians still are learning.

"Even though the Internet, we believe, is a great tool to motivate people ... it is still slightly unknown territory," she said. "[Candidates] tend to stick with what's safer and what works."

The most measurable impact the Internet made on last year's political campaigns, she said, was through fundraising, along with a less noticeable voter organization.

Though Barko-Germany remembers seeing Internet ads from presidential candidate John Kerry and even a few messages featuring first lady Laura Bush, she said the candidates spent a small 0.33 percent of their combined $2.22 billion campaign expenses on Internet ads.

Mike Ashe, director of the Durham County Board of Elections, said many local candidates used Web sites in the last round of elections. But he said he had yet to see Internet ads on a county level.

In 2002, Price helped put into law the original "Stand by Your Ad Act" to regulate television and radio campaign ads. He said he took up the issue of political advertising responsibility after North Carolina passed a similar state law in 1999.

"It struck me for years that the little postage stamp-size picture and the fine print you can't read on the TV screen was highly inadequate," he said.

The new legislation also would require candidates to express their approval on "robo-calls" -- pre-recorded telephone messages -- and e-mail.

Barko-Germany said she expected to see more Internet ads and other online activity in coming political endeavors.