Super PAC Men Eating Up Media Buys

Outlets benefit from huge supporter-group spending

Super PAC spending has
become as much a news
staple during this election season
as debates and primaries.
And as the 2012 cycle continues
to play out, it’s no surprise that
the biggest PAC spenders are
those backing the top two remaining GOP
candidates. The Mitt Romney supporter,
“Restore Our Future,” is currently the expenditure
winner at $17.485 million, followed
by the Newt Gingrich supporter, “Winning
Our Future,” clocking in at $8.829 million.

The spending appears to have paid off for
Romney, who won the Florida primary handily
last week to become the clear front-runner.
But media outlets were also the beneficiaries
of “Restore Our Future,” according to Federal
Election Commission (FEC) filings tracked
by the Center for Responsive Politics.

In the past two weeks, the “Restore” PAC’s
media buys on ads either supporting Romney
or attacking Gingrich totaled $6,809,162,
with an additional $67,744 for
media production.

The “Winning” PAC’s spending
on ads supporting Gingrich
or attacking Romney
was not broken out
cleanly between production
and media buys,
but the combined total
spent on TV or radio
advertising and production
was $3,986,154, with the vast majority
of that—at least $2.5 million—on
radio and TV media buys. Together, the
PACs also spent more than a half-million
dollars in the past two weeks on
Internet advertising.

By contrast, the media spending for
one of the more talked-about Super
PACs, Steven Colbert’s satiric “Americans
for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow,”
was all about the creative.

A handful of ads have been showcased
on Colbert’s TV show and Website,
but so far the PAC expenditures
on the creative for the ads have far
outstripped any media buys.

The idea all along was for Colbert
to use the PAC, and the humorous
ads, as a device to address the
Super PAC issue on his show.
Super PACs are the independent
expenditure committees made
possible by the Supreme Court’s
Citizen’s United decision. which allowed
for unlimited amounts of corporate
and union money to be spent to elect
or defeat federal candidates.

0206 Cover Story Big SpendersThe Colbert
PAC has raised
more than $1 million
and had more
than $673,000 in
the bank, with the
money coming from
bankers, factory
workers, soldiers,
doctors, computer
programmers and
a prison guard, according
to the Sunlight
which tracks PAC

Airtime on The
Colbert Report
and production costs associated
with segments about the PAC fall under
a press exemption for in-kind contributions,
which would otherwise have to be reported.
But the costs for producing and paying for
any ads that the PAC actually buys media
time to run on-air must be reported.

According to the latest numbers from the
FEC, Colbert’s PAC has spent an estimated
$50,000 on ad production costs in the past
three weeks but only made $3,000 worth
of media buys: a $750 buy opposing Mitt
Romney, a similar sum on an ad opposing
Newt Gingrich and $1,500 for a new ad that
supports Herman Cain—who is no longer
running—by attacking Colbert, who is pretending
to run. Sort of.