Alaska is about to get hit by a wave. Just this week, Democratic outside groups plunked down $7.5 million worth of reservations for fall TV advertising supporting Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, a huge amount of money for a state where media comes relatively cheap. Just by itself, the new reservation more than doubles the total outside spending in Alaska in 2008, when Begich won his Senate seat.
Put Alaska First, a super PAC backing Begich and largely financed by another Washington-based group, announced on Monday plans to reserve $4 million in airtime, according to Alaska Dispatch, while the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is also preparing to spend $3.5 million in the same post-Labor Day time period, Politico reported.
Outside groups spent a total of $3.3 million on Alaska's 2008 Senate race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a figure the groups could each surpass on their own. And filings with the Federal Election Commission show that Put Alaska First has already spent about $1.4 million on this year's campaign.
The state very much views itself as independent from the "lower 48," but the influx of outside money—likely not very welcome to any residents who want to watch TV undisturbed this fall—demonstrates Alaska's connection to campaign finance trends across the country. Outside spending rates have exploded in recent years.
Just a decade ago when Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski sought her first full term against former Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles, outside groups spent a grand total of $4.1 million in Alaska. Six years later, as Murkowski ran for reelection, that number had increased only to $4.5 million.
Now in the midst of what's expected to be a record year for political spending, one single group will surpass that amount on its own.
Put Alaska First widened some eyes in 2013 when an adviser said it planned to spend between $3 million to $5 million on Begich's race, an unheard-of sum. Now, its planned spending is so massive it could end up pushing some state and local candidates off the saturated TV airwaves. And as one of just a handful of battleground states where Republicans see opportunities to pick up the six seats they need to flip control of the Senate, buys like these are a siren for states with more expensive media markets, where few plans for autumn are settled—but the wave is coming.
This article appears in the May 13, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.
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