Is Your Independent Expenditure Verified to Run Political Ads?

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Make Sure You’ve Completed Any Verifications You Need to Run Political Ads on Facebook, Twitter, or Google

If you’re running political ads for your independent expenditure campaign, you already have to make extra sure that everything you’re doing and saying is legal. All of your content will likely need to be reviewed by lawyers, especially if it could be controversial. But one area that’s relatively new to this kind of review is making sure your digital ad accounts and/or pages have been verified to run political ads in the US.

Following the news about Russian meddling in US elections, many digital ad platforms have started requiring that political advertisers go through a verification process to make sure that US political ads are coming from real people who are US residents. These processes can take up to two weeks to complete, so you’ll want to make sure you get started before you even think about launching any ads. Below is a rundown of the three major ad platforms that you would need verification for and what that entails.

Facebook

Facebook has the most rigorous and time-consuming certification process. Both individual political advertisers and political Facebook pages need to be verified before any ads can be launched. Facebook defines ads as any ads related to candidates, political parties, independent expenditures, elections, or issues of public or national importance. If you want to run ads around anything even remotely political in nature, you’ll need to be verified.

Individuals must complete the following steps before they can run political ads.

  1. Enable two-factor authentication on their Facebook accounts
  2. Provide a residential mailing address
  3. Upload a picture of a US government photo ID (a passport or a driver’s license)
  4. Facebook will then send you a letter in the mail with a code on it that you will need to enter on the website indicated in the letter (it can take 7-10 days for the letter to arrive).

After all of those steps have been completed, you can move on to getting your page authorized and your ad account linked. You have to be an admin of your political page (and have had your identity confirmed by Facebook) to move forward here. 

  1. Select “Page Settings” in the upper right-hand corner of the Facebook page you administrate.
  2.  Select “Authorizations” on the menu on the left-hand side.
  3. Under “Step 2: Link Your Ad Accounts”, select “Begin”.
  4. Click the “Enable” check box next to the ad account you want to use. If an agency (for example, The Campaign Workshop) asked you to add a disclaimer so they can run ads on your behalf, ask them for the ad account ID they will use for the campaign and enter it into the search box, then add it to your list and enable it.
  5. Next, enter your political disclaimer. Make sure not to enter the words “Paid for by” at the start of your disclaimer. Facebook automatically ads those words to the beginning of every disclaimer and will reject your disclaimer if it’s listed twice.
  6. Submit your disclaimer for approval (it can take 24 hours for the approval to come through).

The final step is to make sure that any political ads you try to run on Facebook have “This Ad Includes Political Content” checked in the ad creation section. Your ads will run with a little “I” icon in a circle that expands to show your disclaimer. You can find more information about Facebook’s political ad policy here: https://politics.fb.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/PolitcalContentAuthorizations-071718-Samlab-v3.pdf.

Twitter

Unlike Facebook, Twitter has two different certification tracks—one for ads related to federal elections and one for ads that refer to non-federal elections. If you are not running ads around a federal election, you still need to be verified to run political ads. The non-federal election certification is referred to as “issue advocacy advertiser”. You only need one type of certification for each handle, so make sure you choose the right one.

The first step is to make sure your account meets the following Twitter requirements:

  • Your profile picture, header photo, and website must be consistent with your handle’s online presence.
  • Your bio must include a website that provides valid contact information.
  • If the Twitter handle is not related to the entity you are trying to verify, the bio must include the following disclaimer: “Owned by [certified entity name].”

Once you’re sure that your account is set up correctly, you can move onto certifications. Below, you can find out which one you’ll need.

  • Political campaigning advertiser (required to run political ads for federal elections): Political campaigning ads refer to ads that have been purchased by a political committee or candidate registered with the FEC, or ads that advocate for or against a clearly identified candidate for federal office. Your Twitter account only needs to get certified as a political campaigning advertiser if you are publishing ads related to a federal election.
  • Issue advocacy advertiser (required to run political ads for non-federal elections): Twitter accounts publishing political ads not related to a federal election fall under the umbrella of an issue advocacy advertiser. Issue advocacy includes ads that refer to a non-federal election (like city council) or clearly identified candidate, or ads that advocate for legislative issues of national importance.

If your ads relate to a federal election and you need your Twitter handle to be certified as a political campaign advertiser, you’ll need the following:

  • Your organization’s FEC ID
  • If your organization isn’t registered with the FEC: a copy of a US passport, and a notarized form
  • If you are individuals who are not registered with the FEC: a copy of a US passport, a government-issued photo ID with a US mailing address, and a notarized form

If your ads are not related to a federal election and you only need your Twitter handle to be certified as an Issue advocacy advertiser, you’ll need the following:

  • If you’re applying for an organization: the organization’s EIN number or ITIN and a US mailing address
  • If you’re applying as an individual: a US government-issued photo ID, a US mailing address

Once you have gathered the information you need for either certification process, you’ll need to follow the steps below before you can start running political ads.

  1. Login to your Twitter account
  2. Go to https://ads.twitter.com/en/help
  3. Select the ad account you want to have certified
  4. When Twitter asks “What kind of issue are you having” select the certification option you need
  5. Select whether you are applying as an individual or an organization
  6. Fill out the information Twitter requests and upload images of any documents you need to add
  7. Twitter will send an email to the address listed as an administrator on the Twitter page you requested certification for. When you receive a letter from Twitter to the US mailing address you provided, respond to that email with the certification code in the letter.

You can find out more about Twitter’s political ad policy here: https://business.twitter.com/en/help/ads-policies/restricted-content-policies/political-content/US-political-content.html.

Google

Google’s verification process is mercifully short compared to Facebook and Twitter. This process is done at the organization level. If you do work for more than one organization like we do, you’ll need to get each account you have that you intend to run political ads with verified. Like Facebook and Twitter, Google requires verifications for ads related to elections or issues of national importance. Below you can find a basic outline of the steps you’ll need to take.

  1. First, go to this form: https://support.google.com/adspolicy/contact/us_election_ads.
  2. Enter your Google Ads customer ID. If you’re an agency with multiple advertiser accounts, enter the customer ID for your client’s advertiser account, not your agency account’s ID.
  3. Select whether you/your client is an organization or an individual. If you’re not sure, you can see what’s selected in your billing settings.
  4. If you’re applying as/for an individual, you’ll need to be prepared to enter the following information:
    1. Your valid FEC ID (if applicable)
    2. Your full name as listed in your Google Ads payment profile (under “Billing and Payments” in your account settings)
    3. Your complete address
  5. If you’re applying as/for an organization, you’ll need the following information:
    1. The full name of an authorized representative (this needs to be a full-time employee of the organization or a representative of the agency representing the organization)
    2. A valid FEC ID or EIN
    3. Email address (if you are using your FEC ID, you’ll need to make sure it matches what’s listed in your organization’s FEC electronic filing)
    4. Organization name (this has to perfectly match your FEC ID or EIN, including capitalization and punctuation)
    5. Organization address (this has to perfectly match your FEC ID or EIN, including capitalization and punctuation)
  6. Once you’ve filled out all of the necessary information, you’ll also need to make sure to check the boxes Google asks for, like the attestations that you/your organization are based in the US and the terms and conditions.
  7. Wait for Google to send you an email saying that your verification is complete

The processes for getting your accounts verified to run political ads can be onerous, but they’ve been put in place to protect our elections from foreign interference. In the interest of protecting our democracy, I think it’s worth it in the long run. Are you running an independent expenditure campaign? Make sure you check our five tips to make sure you are helping your cause or candidate.

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