A case in Ames that’s drawn attention from the state ethics board to highlights the state’s rules on identifying who pays for political ads. Charlie Smithson is executive director of the state ethics board, and explains that before a public vote on a recreation center, a local group ran ads that ran afoul of the rules. Someone had purchased newspaper advertisements without adequately describing who’d paid for them. Smithson says groups that buy commercials hoping to sway voters must register and file the names and contact information for one or more people in the group, with the ethics board. The law states that the public has a right to know who’s financially influencing the outcome of elections. Most often with local candidates or issues, Smithson says there’s no underhanded motive, just a group of local people who support or oppose one side and want to get their message out, unaware of the regulations on public disclosure.He sees “very little” of people maliciously trying to circumvent campaign laws, just those who haven’t realized that once involved in political activity they’d better take a look at the laws. The ethics board website has details of what advertisers have to file and make public in a campaign commercial, print or broadcast. Go to the state of Iowa website at www.state.ia.us and click on “state government” and then the link to the Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.
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