Dynamist Blog

What Makes an Ad "Political"?

Watching this ad during the Olympics, I've been puzzled and more than a little concerned. Is this how the anti-Prop. 8 campaign is spending my money? We're doomed. The commercial is mildly amusing, a little poignant, and way too subtle for an initiative campaign. After spending 16 years in the 501(c)3 world, I should have figured out what was going on. As the LAT reports, the ad is not part of the anti-initiative campaign. It's being run by a nonprofit that supports the right of gays to marry.

Of course, as the LAT's Dan Morain writes, "Some experts believe that the ad's producer, Let California Ring, is skirting federal tax law, which restricts political campaigning by nonprofit organizations with tax-exempt status." I'm not a lawyer, but I'd say the "experts" are wrong here. The ad doesn't even come close to the line. It doesn't mention the initiative--or, for that matter, same-sex marriage. It is, as I thought, way too subtle for a campaign ad.

UPDATE: Windypundit Mark Draughn emails:

That ad reminds me of the early days of drug advertising on television, when the restrictions were so tight that most ads couldn't mention what the drug actually did (I guess because they'd need a 10-minute disclaimer explaining the side effects). So we would end up watching these mysterious commercials filled with happy looking people who seemed to really enjoy being outdoors and breathing the fresh air, again and again, until we realized, "Oh! It's about allergies."

UPDATE II: I appreciate the traffic from Andrew Sullivan, but his teeny post was misleading. The whole point of the post above is that a) first I thought, "Is that how my donations have been spent?" b) then I read the story in the LAT and realized that the ad was soft sell because it was NOT a campaign ad and hence had nothing to do with the money I've donated to EQCA c) people who think an ad that doesn't mention the initiative or even gay marriage are wrong to say the ad crosses the legal line d) as further proof of c see a.

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