Ad It Up: Outside Groups Funding Many Campaign Ads


If it seems like your TV time has been carpet-bombed with campaign advertising, some data indicate you might well be right.

Parts of the Ohio Valley region stand out in analyses of campaign spending on high volume TV spots.

West Virginia: 58,000 Ads on State Races Alone

For all of the attention on the presidential race, it’s the state-level races generating a lot of the the spending in West Virginia.

“There’s been a ton of ads in West Virginia,” said data reporter Ben Wieder at the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit journalism outlet.

Click here to view the interactive graphic >>


The Center analyzed TV ads in state-level races as tracked by media monitoring firm Kantar Media/CMAG and found that West Virginians have seen more than 58,000 ads this election cycle just on state-level races, and about $13 million was spent on those ads.

“We broke it down by spending per eligible voter, and it’s about $9.50 per voter,” Wieder said.

Competitive races for governor, attorney general, and state supreme court produced most of the ads. The attorney general race has driven much of the ad spending, about $6.5 million, with outside groups supplying about half of that.

The biggest spending outside group borrows the state’s motto for its name, the Mountaineers Are Always Free PAC, but that is just the local name for a national group, the Republican Attorneys General Association.

Wieder said this reflects a national trend of more outside money pouring into state races. “National interests of both parties think they have a shot so they are spending like crazy to swing the state in their direction,” he said.

Ohio: The $80M Senate Race

The nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics shows the Ohio race for the U.S. Senate is the fourth most expensive Senate race in the country. The candidates, incumbent Republican Rob Portman and former Democratic governor Ted Strickland have spent nearly $31 million combined.

But that’s not even half the total spending there. With the partisan control of the Senate potentially at stake, outside groups are pouring money into competitive races. Advertising Age reported in September that ad spending in Senate races was greater than spending in the presidential race (although that has now likely changed). In Ohio that’s meant that another $51 million was spent on the Portman/Strickland race by outside groups.

By comparison Kentucky’s Senate race, between Republican incumbent Rand Paul and Democratic Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, seems like a bargain, with just about $17 million spent by both candidates and outside groups.

The Winners And Losers

The Center for Responsive Politics data show that the majority of outside spending in most of the Congressional campaigns is spent to attack a candidate rather than support one. For example, in the Ohio race for the U.S.Senate some $43 million of the money spent by outside groups went to negative ads and outreach.

But whether the ads are positive or negative, it’s all a plus for the TV stations who run them.

“Oh, it’s a good time to own a television station,” Wieder said.

Candidates do pledge to help the economy, right?