Georgetown News-Graphic publisher Mike Scogin has started charging for political candidate endorsement letters to the editor. Until two weeks prior to the election, the News Graphic does not charge for the letters. But within those final two weeks, a letter writer will have to pay $15 to have the endorsement appear in the paper.
So Mike asked the question: If we’re charging for that space, even though it’s not a typical political ad, do we have to publish the “Paid for by” disclaimer?
The Registry of Election Finance answered the question with a qualified “yes.”
George Baker, administrative specialist for the registry, wrote: “Any endorsement letter where payment is required by the newspaper should include the “Paid for by” disclaimer. Since there are instances where payment is not required, the newspaper should also publish its policy of allowing persons to publish “free” endorsement letters until two weeks prior to an election then charging $15 for each letter thereafter. “
So feel free to charge for political endorsement letters, that’s within your right, but make sure you include the disclaimer with each letter, just as you would if it was a political ad. The disclaimer would not be required on letters published at no cost; only on those that have to pay for the letter to be published.
In Kentucky, a political ad is defined as “Any advertisement for the support or defeat of a candidate,” candidate being an operative word. Local issues, such as wet/dry votes, do not qualify as a political ad requiring the disclaimer.
Mike said the policy to charge has been well received by the letter writers.