Why Are Outside Groups Spending Millions So Early?

Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., speaks against the health carelaw outside the Supreme Court.  
National Journal
Scott Bland
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Scott Bland
Aug. 27, 2013, 3:30 p.m.

The League of Con­ser­va­tion Voters is not spend­ing its sum­mer con­serving cash.

More than 14 months ahead of the 2014 elec­tions, the in­flu­en­tial en­vir­on­ment­al group is spend­ing $2 mil­lion to air tele­vi­sion ads at­tack­ing four Re­pub­lic­ans as an­ti­science for their po­s­i­tions on cli­mate change. Just three years ago, that would have been more than one-third of LCV’s total 2010 elec­tion budget. One of its tar­gets, Sen. Ron John­son, R-Wis., won’t even be on the bal­lot un­til 2016.

The su­per­charged — and su­per early — ad­vocacy is em­blem­at­ic of pres­sure groups’ think­ing cre­at­ively about how they spend be­cause there is now so much oth­er spend­ing to com­pete with. Voters are less likely to no­tice one more ad jsut be­fore an elec­tion, with so much money and ad­vert­ising sat­ur­at­ing TV mar­kets, and PACs get less re­turn for their money. That’s also true in the most lit­er­al sense: The growth of cam­paign spend­ing right be­fore the elec­tion caused TV ad­vert­ising rates to double or even triple in some mar­kets in 2012.

So the League of Con­ser­va­tion Voters is filling the air­waves dur­ing what was once the sleepy sum­mer month of Au­gust.

“We’re ob­vi­ously not try­ing to de­feat Ron John­son right now,” said Nav­in Nayak, LCV’s seni­or vice pres­id­ent for cam­paigns. The group is also air­ing com­mer­cials in the dis­tricts of GOP Reps. Dan Ben­ishek of Michigan, Mike Coff­man of Col­or­ado, and Rod­ney Dav­is of Illinois. “A lot of what we’re try­ing to do, both on the elec­tion side and in this kind of cam­paign, is to demon­strate the polit­ic­al sa­li­ency of our is­sues…. We feel con­fid­ent that when con­stitu­ents find out their mem­bers are cli­mate den­iers, they’ll take a hit at home.”

Of course, LCV is able to do this only be­cause its own budget is big­ger than ever. The group spent less than $5.4 mil­lion in the 2010 elec­tion cycle, ac­cord­ing to totals col­lec­ted by the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics. Last year, it boos­ted its spend­ing above $14 mil­lion.

LCV isn’t alone in spend­ing more soon­er. A full-scale ad­vert­ising war has already broken out in Ken­tucky, where Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell is run­ning for reelec­tion in 2014, and out­side groups on both sides have already dropped more than $1 mil­lion. Two con­ser­vat­ive groups have spent over a half-mil­lion dol­lars in Arkan­sas beat­ing up Demo­crat­ic Sen. Mark Pry­or be­fore 2014, too.

For LCV’s pur­poses, cli­mate change is not ne­ces­sar­ily a mes­sage that would im­me­di­ately break through in the fren­zied blood­baths of late elec­tion-year com­mer­cial breaks. But if the en­vir­on­ment­al group can es­tab­lish the is­sue now, it can come back to the cli­mate theme in 2014 with a found­a­tion already laid if tar­geted mem­bers don’t change their views.

That’s es­pe­cially true since the growth in avail­able cam­paign cash means that spend­ing money isn’t ne­ces­sar­ily a zero-sum de­cision. LCV’s $2 mil­lion ex­pendit­ure doesn’t take that money away from cam­paigns next fall if it en­er­gizes the group’s donor base, Nayak said, point­ing to the group’s $1.3 mil­lion in spend­ing to elect Demo­crat­ic Sen. Ed­ward Mar­key in Mas­sachu­setts earli­er this year. LCV de­cided to spend big des­pite the state’s blue hue and the pro-Mar­key forces’ money ad­vant­age.

“Donors wanted to stand with him,” Nayak said. “Yes, it’s Mas­sachu­setts. But more donors un­der­stand that we have to play to make the case for why people should stand with us.”

Like­wise, if the money the Club for Growth and the Sen­ate Con­ser­vat­ives Fund spent against Pry­or in any way helped con­vince Arkan­sas Rep. Tom Cot­ton that the race was win­nable, that early money is an in­vest­ment in 2014, not be­ing wasted in 2013. And as more money floods the polit­ic­al land­scape, groups are spread­ing it around long be­fore the elec­tion to gen­er­ate more im­pact.

What We're Following See More »
KIM CALLS TRUMP A “DOTARD”
North Korea Threatens H-Bomb Test Over Pacific
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"North Korea said on Friday it might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean after President Donald Trump vowed to destroy the reclusive country, with leader Kim Jong Un promising to make Trump pay dearly for his threats. Kim did not specify what action he would take against the United States or Trump, whom he called a 'mentally deranged U.S. dotard' in the latest bout of insults the two leaders have traded in recent weeks."

Source:
INFORMS CONGRESS RE: EXECUTIVE ORDER
Trump Makes Good on Promise of New North Korea Sanctions
3 days ago
THE LATEST

President Trump this afternoon announced another round of sanctions on North Korea, calling the regime "a continuing threat." The executive order, which Trump relayed to Congress, bans any ship or plane that has visited North Korea from visiting the United States within 180 days. The order also authorizes sanctions on any financial institution doing business with North Korea, and permits the secretaries of State and the Treasury to sanction any person involved in trading with North Korea, operating a port there, or involved in a variety of industries there.

SOUTH KOREA WILL SEND AID
Trump Promises More Sanctions on North Korea
3 days ago
THE LATEST

In response to a reporter's question, President Trump said "he’ll be looking to impose further financial penalties on North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic tests. ... The U.N. has passed two resolutions recently aimed at squeezing the North Korean economy by cutting off oil, labor and exports to the nation." Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that South Korea's unification ministry is sending an $8m aid package aimed at infants and pregnant women in North Korea. The "humanitarian gesture [is] at odds with calls by Japan and the US for unwavering economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang."

Source:
HIGHLIGHT ISSUES FACING KIDS
FLOTUS to Speak at UN Luncheon
4 days ago
THE LATEST
PRESSES CASE FOR REFORMS
Trump Meets with UN Leaders
4 days ago
THE LATEST

President Trump on Tuesday night met with UN Secretary Guterres and President of the General Assembly Miroslav Lajcak. In both cases, as per releases from the White House, Trump pressed them on the need to reform the UN bureaucracy.

×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login