Special Rule for Paid Mass Media Advertisements

A paid mass media advertisement that does not qualify as a grass roots lobbying communication under the three-part definition (discussed below*) will be presumed to be a grass roots lobbying communication if it:

  1. is made within 2 weeks before a vote by a legislative body or committee (but not a subcommittee);
  2. reflects a view on the general subject of a highly publicized piece of legislation; and
  3. either refers to the legislation or encourages the public to communicate with legislators on the general subject of the legislation.

This presumption can be rebutted by demonstrating that the paid advertisement is a type of mass media communication regularly made by the organization without regard to the timing of legislation (i.e., the customary course of business exception) or that the timing of the paid advertisement was unrelated to the upcoming legislative action.

"Mass media," for purposes of this rule, means television, radio, billboards, and general circulation newspapers and magazines.  Newspapers or magazines published by a 501(c)(3) organization that has made the 501(h) election are not considered general circulation newspapers or magazines unless the total circulation of such publication is greater than 100,000 and fewer than 1/2 of the recipients are members of the organization.

Legislation is "highly publicized" when it receives frequent coverage on television and radio, and in general circulation newspapers, during the two weeks preceding the vote by the legislative body or committee.  Even where legislation receives frequent coverage, it is "highly publicized" only if the pendency of the legislation or the legislation’s general terms, purpose or effect are known to a significant segment of the general public (as opposed to the particular interest groups directly affected) in the area in which the paid mass media advertisement appears.


* A communication with the general public will be considered a "grass roots lobbying communication" only if it meets all three of the following requirements:

  1. The communication refers to specific legislation;
  2. The communication reflects a view on such legislation; and
  3. The communication encourages the recipient of the communication to take action with respect to such legislation.