Mobile strategy company Revolution Messaging says FEC inaction will cost campaigns money and limit the use of mobile technology

WASHINGTON, DC – With a 3-3 vote today, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is failing to keep up with the realities of modern digital technology by insisting that political advertising on mobile phones, no matter how small, cannot incorporate shorter disclaimer language, according to Washington’s leading mobile strategy company.

Revolution Messaging said the FEC inaction, due to a split over two conflicting draft advisory opinions, would make it impossible for political campaigners, including ones fully committed to transparency, to advertise widely on handheld devices. In response to concerns previously raised by some Commissioners, Revolution Messaging had revised its original request to ensure that the sponsor of advertising would be clearly disclosed in all cases, thereby ensuring that the policy objective of the disclaimer requirement would be served.

“The Democratic FEC commissioners have no sense of the technology available to today’s political campaigns. They are employing 20th century logic to 21st century campaigns,” Revolution Messaging’s partner and head of digital advertising Keegan Goudiss said today.

“Commissioners misled us after our initial hearing where they said there could be a compromise by way of a shortened disclaimer. While Republican commissioners felt there was no need for a disclaimer whatsoever, they were willing to settle on an alternative which would achieve the same purpose. Unfortunately, Democratic Commissioners changed their minds and rejected that approach, apparently at the last minute.

“The Commission’s approach is disappointing, shortsighted and a transparency killer. Those that already bend the rules will continue to do so, while those committed to transparency with fewer resources will be unable to take full advantage of mobile technology.”

Goudiss noted that the FEC offers exemptions for bumper stickers, buttons, pens, water towers, skywriting and other objects deemed too small to make the inclusion of the disclaimer language practical, and he expressed surprise that mobile phones and other handheld devices would be viewed differently.

“Democratic Commissioners spent more time today debating the practicality of a 30 year old ruling on small-items exemptions, and whether it applied to today’s world, rather then address a way a shortened disclaimer could allow for an expanded use of mobile advertising by those with smaller budgets.

The FEC has struggled in the past to come to grips with digital technology. On at least four occasions in the past four years, the commissioners have been deadlocked and failed to issue rulings on questions related to new technology, including disclaimer requirements for small ads on Facebook and Google ads generated through AdWords.

Revolution Messaging has been a leader in technological advances in the political space. The company was critical to last year’s FEC decision to allow donations via SMS and also filed a petition urging the FCC to clearly define text message regulations in order to halt political text message spam.

“This ruling will do nothing to deter bad players in the political arena who seek to conceal or distort their identities. It will only penalize good players and force them to spend more to get their message across,” Goudiss said.