The Brown & Crouppen Legal Lens takes a closer look at everyday legal issues and gives you a better understanding of topics that may affect you.

ST. LOUIS – After weeks of political advertising on Wednesday most of the political rhetoric is silent. This week’s Legal Lens with FOX’s 2 Vic Faust and Andrea McNairy, managing attorney at Brown & Crouppen, explains what’s legal when those ads get unpleasant.

Are there any laws regulating the political hit ads we see on TV?

“Yes, but very few. If a federal candidate then federal laws are regulated,” said McNairy. “If a Missouri candidate then a Missouri statute that says somebody has to identify who is running the political ads, so if it’s a candidate they have to say paid for by the candidate or if it’s a committee paid for by committee and who that chairperson is.” 

Can political opponents say whatever they want in these ads without any repercussion?

“Yes, because of the first amendment, very few laws on books regulate the content of these advertisements,” said McNairy. “First Amendment basically says the government can not limit free speech. It doesn’t apply to Facebook or Twitter, which is why sometimes we will see ads being pulled off Facebook or Twitter, but continue to run on TV. There are a few limitations to the First Amendment, you can’t say something that would incite violence. You can’t use obscenity and something called defamation for false statements made, but for any public figure, they are very hard to prove. You have to prove the statement is false, and second that damaged a person, things of opinion are not defamation and are not actual.”

Is there a limit to the amount of money a campaign can spend on ads?

“For a candidate, yes, and contributions to candidates, but there are no limits,” said McNairy. “If it’s a PAC or a committee, as long as the PAC or committee is not formed or controlled or directed by the candidate. Basically, they can be as involved in an election as much as they want. In 2010, the Supreme Court … states that Citizens United vs Federal Elections Commission said corporate funding can be used without limitation for election broadcasts.”