Washington, like the rest of the United States, is being swarmed by political ads right now. They're on your radio, TV... YouTube. And once Netflix launches it's ad-tier option, I'm sure they'll be on there, too.
But can all the mudslinging, sensational, and sometimes downright alarming commercials actually be telling the truth about political opponents and important issues? I mean, they can't lie to us, can they?
Political Ads Can Absolutely Lie to You
Washington State politicians can bend the truth, tell a little white lie, tell a bald-faced lie, and distort reality until it breaks if they want to. No facts are required in political ads. Kinda' sucks, doesn't it?
Are All Political Ads Full of Lies?
Political ads can be truthful, if the candidates - or Super-Pac's - want them to be.
Can TV and Radio Stations Refuse to Run Political Ads?
Radio, television networks, and local affiliates are required to run political ads for any "qualified candidates" for federal office. The media companies must air the ads with no edits, no matter how absurd, offensive, or untrue they are. The only exception would be if the ad violated FCC obscenity rules.
Not only that, but stations can only charge the lowest possible unit rate. And the candidates can choose to run the ads any time they want, so there's no burying their deceitful content overnight, when large audiences are asleep. This is called "reasonable access."
Why Are Political Ads Allowed to Lie to the Public?
Political ads are free speech; protected under the 1st amendment as "political speech."
Are There Any Repercussions for Lying in a Political Ad?
If a political ad makes defamatory statements about another candidate, says they're a meth-addicted cat-burglar, for instance - legal action could be taken.
What's a Voter to Do?
In the words of former President Ronald Reagan, and perhaps a Russian proverb, "trust. But verify." In other words, start researching the candidates. Forget what they say. Look at what they voted for, and what they voted against. What have they done for Washington state? And what have they done for our country?
Hey, speaking of things that stink...