WSJS decided original spot did not meet federal campaign regulations
Winston-Salem Journal, June 2, 2004
NORTH CAROLINA -- Under pressure from a powerful local radio station, Vernon Robinson changed a line from Spanish to English to get his most-recent ad on the air. WSJS radio pulled the ads for all the Republican candidates in the 5th Congressional District over the weekend while it determined whether Robinson could air an English-language ad about illegal immigration that gives a required disclaimer in Spanish about who paid for it.
In the ad, an announcer says in Spanish, "Yo, gringo! This episode of The Twilight Zone was paid for by Robinson for Congress."
Yesterday, the station began airing ads for other candidates after the station's management decided that Robinson's ad did not meet federal standards, said Tom Hamilton, the senior vice president and station manager of WSJS. Robinson said that the decision was "totally bogus" but his campaign needed to run ads on what he called the largest talk-radio station in the district. WSJS airs The Rush Limbaugh Show weekdays, and many of the candidates buy ads during and around the popular conservative talk show.
"We're having WSJS put the disclaimer in English and running it," Robinson said.
Robinson said that nothing in the regulations of the Federal Election Commission or the Federal Communications Commission says that the disclaimer has to be in English. "We were making a political point" that English should be the national language, he said. Federal rules require federal candidates to say that they authorized their ads. Ads for federal candidates must also say who paid for them.
Nothing specifies what language must be used in either case, said George Smaragdis, a spokesman for the FEC. But he did say that candidates should request an advisory opinion if they are unclear about the law. Robinson said he did not ask for an advisory opinion. The primary, which is July 20, would be over by the time the FEC made any decision, he said.
Hamilton said that the disclaimer is supposed to give the public information about who paid for the ad. WSJS is an English-language station, and its listeners should be able to understand the disclaimer, he said. It would be different if the ad were in Spanish and directed to the Spanish-speaking population, Hamilton said.
Robinson said that it's clear he paid for the ad, even though the disclaimer is in Spanish. "I think there might be a debate about 'paid for' (being understood), but 'Robinson for Congreso' is clear," he said.