False political advertising defined

It is illegal to sponsor a political ad, with actual malice, that contains a statement constituting libel or defamation per se* if the statement:

  • directly or indirectly implies a candidate has the support or endorsement of any person or organization when the candidate does not (unless the statement is made by the person or organization),
  • is a false statement of material fact about a candidate,** or
  • falsely represents that a candidate is an incumbent.

*See RCW 42.17A.335(2) for a definition of libel and defamation per se.

**Unless a candidate is making a statement about him or herself or the statement is made by the candidate's agent about the candidate.

It is also illegal to:

  • use an assumed name for sponsor ID in a political ad;
  • distribute campaign material deceptively similar in design or appearance to the voter and candidate pamphlets published by the Secretary of State, or
  • use the state seal or its likeness to assist or defeat a candidate.