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VERIFY: Why politicians must say 'I approve this message' in campaign ads

With many ads, you will hear "I approve this message." But where does that come from? Do politicians always have to put it at the end of their ads?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Midterm elections are just over a month away and campaign ads are all over TV

With many ads, there's a line most candidates say in their ads, but where does that come from? Do politicians always have to put it at the end of their campaign ads? 

"I approve this message." A short line you'll hear more and more with the November election right around the corner. A VERIFY viewer asked where that line comes from and if politicians are required to include it in their ads. 

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The Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act was passed in 2002. It includes a provision that requires candidates running for federal office to claim their ads.  

"It is a federal law that all candidates have to acknowledge that if they are paying for this particular ad, they have to claim credit and responsibility for it," Bitzer said. 

The FEC is very specific about how the message should appear. The written statement must come at the end of the ad, appear for at least four seconds, and must be "clearly readable," 

So why is this provision in place? 

"The belief was that if candidates had to take ownership of the aids message, perhaps it might tone down the kind of negativism that we have seen in attack ads," Bitzer said. "Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case over the past 20 years."

Though negative ads are still abundant on TV and social media, candidates have to take ownership of it. They're the ones paying for it. 

VERIFY is dedicated to helping the public distinguish between true and false information. The VERIFY team, with help from questions submitted by the audience, tracks the spread of stories or claims that need clarification or correction. Have something you want VERIFIED? Text us at 704-329-3600 or visit VERIFY.

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