Washington

Hunting Elephants, Donkeys and Bucks

Big-spending candidates and companies are fair game for broadcasters 10/04/2010 06:18:00 AM Eastern

Election Day $mackdown

Perhaps one way to boost political ad spending on broadcast and cable TV is to put up more candidates from the industry.

The biggest spender by far among all candidates this election season, House or Senate, is Republican Linda McMahon, who is running for a Senate seat in Connecticut. As of Sept. 27, Federal Election Commission figures showed that McMahon had spent $21,349,619, all of it her own money. She has said she doesn’t want to take any special-interest money and is self-financing her campaign. McMahon has even given back $6 from two individuals who tried to contribute, according to FEC records. Her total is more than twice the amount spent by the nextbiggest spender in 2010, Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, at $10,469,679.

McMahon resigned as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment a year ago to throw her chair—or, rather, her hat—into the ring. She has reportedly pledged to spend up to $50 million on the campaign.

McMahon’s investment appears to be paying off. According to Rasmussen and Quinnipiac polls taken Sept. 26, she has climbed to within 3%-5% of her Democratic opponent, Richard Blumenthal. Recent analysis on the political Website Realclearpolitics. com states, “He’s now in real danger of losing this race.”—John Eggerton

Congress has not yet passed a bill to compensate
broadcasters for giving up their spectrum, but plenty
of House and Senate members, not to mention governors
and state legislators, are contributing
to broadcasters’ financial well-being
through ads.

All the seats in the House of Representatives
are up for grabs, along with control of
the House itself. And there are big-ticket
races such as Meg Whitman’s spend-athon
in California. So, even with the failure
of a bill that could have taken some of the
steam out of the landmark Citizens United
Supreme Court campaign finance ruling,
Washington is doing its part.

SNL Kagan is predicting that TV stations
could reel in $2.5 billion this political
season, or 25% more than during
the last midterm season of 2006. According
to Kagan’s latest analysis of the 2010
elections, political spending on public
TV-only groups in the first half of the year was already up to
$41.2 million, or 48% more than 2006.

Broadcasters are benefiting from the Supreme Court’s decision
last fall to allow corporations and unions to use their own money,
rather than political action committee (PAC) money, to buy ads
that directly advocate for the election of candidates in the weeks
before an election or primary. A bill to boost disclosure requirements
and reinstate the ban for some companies that do business with the government ran out of time in
this congressional session, failing to turn
off what the Washington Post called the
“secret money spigot.”

But it’s no secret that cash has been
flowing into broadcasting coffers thanks
to big-money efforts in swing states, and
others with key races. For example, according
to Kagan, Whitman has already
spent more than $100 million to succeed
Arnold Schwarzenegger in California,
with a pledge to spend up to $50
million more. Even former broadcast
programming exec Linda McMahon is
adding muscle to a strong broadcaster showing.

Not surprisingly, the top five TV-only station groups in terms
of projected political take are the ones with the most
viewers in states with hotly contested
races—including Florida, California,
Kentucky, Wisconsin and Nevada.

Conceding that an influx of political
ad money from corporations was
a “shot in the arm” for broadcasters
“still reeling,” David Vance, communications
director for the Campaign
Legal Center, which has pushed
for campaign finance reform, questioned
whether that was a “healthy
thing” for democracy. “People are
horrified by the Citizens United decision
and these anonymous, massive
corporate contributions,” Vance
says. “At some point, anger is going
to grow because they are being subjected
to massive amounts of advertising,
as you see from the Kagan numbers.”

But Vance also says that even if some version of the bill passes
after the election, he doesn’t think it will take much away from
broadcasters’ political ad future: “People will find different ways
to get involved… There is just simply more money available.”

E-mail comments to jeggerton@nbmedia.com
and follow him on Twitter: @eggerton

Election Day $mackdown

Perhaps one way to boost political ad spending on broadcast and cable TV is to put up more candidates from the industry.

The biggest spender by far among all candidates this election season, House or Senate, is Republican Linda McMahon, who is running for a Senate seat in Connecticut. As of Sept. 27, Federal Election Commission figures showed that McMahon had spent $21,349,619, all of it her own money. She has said she doesn’t want to take any special-interest money and is self-financing her campaign. McMahon has even given back $6 from two individuals who tried to contribute, according to FEC records. Her total is more than twice the amount spent by the nextbiggest spender in 2010, Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, at $10,469,679.

McMahon resigned as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment a year ago to throw her chair—or, rather, her hat—into the ring. She has reportedly pledged to spend up to $50 million on the campaign.

McMahon’s investment appears to be paying off. According to Rasmussen and Quinnipiac polls taken Sept. 26, she has climbed to within 3%-5% of her Democratic opponent, Richard Blumenthal. Recent analysis on the political Website Realclearpolitics. com states, “He’s now in real danger of losing this race.”—John Eggerton

 

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