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Special Interest Groups Flood Key States With Ads For Gore; Group Spending For Bush Virtually Nonexistent

For Imme­di­ate Release
Septem­ber 27, 2000

Contact Inform­a­tion
Steve Rabinow­itz, Matt Dorf, 202 547–3577
Scott Schell, 212 998–6318
Ken Gold­stein, Univer­sity of Wiscon­sin Madison,
608 263–2390

Special Interest Groups Flood Key States With Ads for Gore; Group Spend­ing For Bush Virtu­ally Nonex­ist­ent

Bren­nan Center Study Finds Large Spend­ing Edge for Bush Campaign Wiped Out by Gun Control Group and Unions

Repub­lic­ans Continue Push in Flor­ida Miami, Orlando and Tampa Rank Tops Nation­ally in Number of Ads Run by Bush and RNC

The George W. Bush pres­id­en­tial campaign and the Repub­lican National Commit­tee spent over $1.3 million more on tele­vi­sion ads than Vice Pres­id­ent Al Gore and the Demo­cratic Party during the week ending Septem­ber 20, yet unpre­ced­en­ted spend­ing by special interest groups on behalf of Gore made up the differ­ence, pulling Gore even in the week’s advert­ising wars. Though Governor Bush’s campaign almost doubled the spend­ing on ads by the Vice Pres­id­ent’s campaign ($2 million to $1.1 million) during the week, voters in targeted markets saw no differ­ence in the two candid­ates’ levels of activ­ity, thanks to inde­pend­ent groups.

Led by Hand­gun Control and the AFL-CIO, group spend­ing for Gore during the week ending Septem­ber 20, exceeded $1.1 million, compared to just $17,227 of group spend­ing for Bush. Groups back­ing Gore satur­ated major media markets in Midwest­ern battle­ground states Pennsylvania (Phil­adelphia), Ohio (Clev­e­land), Michigan (Detroit), and Missouri (St. Louis). Since June 1, inde­pend­ent group spend­ing on ads for Gore has exceeded group spend­ing for Bush by a tenfold margin $3.6 million to $334,505.

These find­ings are the latest in an ongo­ing study of polit­ical tele­vi­sion advert­ising by the Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, conduc­ted in conjunc­tion with polit­ical scient­ist Kenneth Gold­stein of the Univer­sity of Wiscon­sin Madison. The study is funded by the Pew Char­it­able Trusts. Using data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group (“CMAG”) to monitor polit­ical advert­ising in the nation’s top 75 media markets, reach­ing over 80 percent of the U.S. popu­la­tion, the Bren­nan Center and Professor Gold­stein are analyz­ing polit­ical advert­ising in real time for the dura­tion of the 2000 campaign. Every polit­ical ad aired in these media markets is reviewed, quan­ti­fied and coded along an extens­ive array of vari­ables.

Party spend­ing of “soft money” on tele­vised campaign appeals shows no sign of reced­ing, solid­i­fy­ing the parties as the domin­ant play­ers in the 2000 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion. Since June 1, the Repub­lican and Demo­cratic parties spent in excess of $52 million on ads, while combined spend­ing by the Bush and Gore campaigns was $21 million. All party sponsored ads mention a candid­ate, and none refer­ence the party, even though the “soft money” paying for the ads is supposedly restric­ted by law to party-build­ing activ­it­ies.

“It’s offi­cial: The law of the jungle prevails,” declared E. Joshua Rosen­kranz, Pres­id­ent of the Bren­nan Center. “Cour­tesy of ‘soft money’ and ‘sham issue ads,’ parties and outside groups have spent more than two-and-a-half times the money spent by the candid­ates them­selves. Only in a completely failed campaign finance regime would we see candid­ate Al Gore spend less on tele­vised campaign appeals than the Demo­cratic party or outside groups. The latest data should press even the most die-hard oppon­ents of reform to think again about fixing our broken laws.”

In Flor­ida and five other battle­ground states concen­trated in the Midw­est, the pres­id­en­tial candid­ates continue to wage a furi­ous battle over the tele­vi­sion airwaves. Bush holds a lopsided spend­ing edge in Flor­ida and an advant­age in Michigan; Gore holds a small edge in Wiscon­sin, Missouri, and Pennsylvania; and in Ohio spend­ing is even.

Efforts by the Bush campaign and the RNC in Flor­ida continue at peak intens­ity, where Miami, Orlando, and Tampa pulled off a trifecta: these Flor­ida markets ranked tops nation­ally in the number of ads for Governor Bush aired during the week ending Septem­ber 20. Since June 1, Bush has spent twice as much on ads in Flor­ida as Gore $6.2 million to $3.1 million.

On the Demo­cratic side of the ledger, the Gore campaign and the DNC have aired more ads in Green Bay, Wiscon­sin than any other media market since June 1, with a second city in tradi­tion­ally Demo­cratic Wiscon­sin Milwau­kee getting the fourth most atten­tion from the Gore camp. Wash­ing­ton State, firmly in the Demo­cratic column in the past two pres­id­en­tial elec­tions, recently has shown a marked increase in spend­ing by Gore focused on the Seattle media market.

“The usual suspects, those Midwest­ern battle­ground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Michigan, continue to receive massive spend­ing on ads,” said Univer­sity of Wiscon­sin Madison Professor Kenneth Gold­stein. “It’s also clear from the data that the Bush camp is still fight­ing for its elect­oral life in Flor­ida, and Gore has yet to secure Wiscon­sin and Wash­ing­ton states that are ‘must haves’ in any winning Demo­cratic elec­tion calcu­lus.”

These find­ings make the 2000 campaign the first ever in which inform­a­tion describ­ing candid­ates’ use of the tele­vi­sion airwaves will be avail­able to voters, polit­ical scient­ists, and campaign analysts in real time. The Bren­nan Center study will last for the dura­tion of the campaign and reveals the untold story of tele­vi­sion advert­ising paid for by candid­ates, parties, and groups:

  • Spend­ing on ads by candid­ates, parties, and allied groups.
  • Prior­ity media markets targeted by the Repub­lican and Demo­cratic parties during the most recent two weeks.
  • Analysis of party advert­ising.
The find­ings for the 2000 elec­tion cycle build on the Bren­nan Center’s Buying Time: Tele­vi­sion Advert­ising in the 1998 Congres­sional Elec­tions, avail­able online at www.buying­time.org. Among the 1998 find­ings was the revel­a­tion that the defin­i­tion used to identify campaign appeals, which relies on so-called magic words such as “vote for,” “elect,” or “defeat,” captured only 4 percent of the advert­ise­ments run by congres­sional candid­ates. The narrow­ness of the defin­i­tion allows parties and groups to spon­sor ads indis­tin­guish­able from those run by candid­ates, yet these ads escape the oblig­a­tions of campaign finance law.

The Bren­nan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law devel­ops and imple­ments a nonpar­tisan agenda of schol­ar­ship, public educa­tion, and legal action that promotes equal­ity and human dignity, while safe­guard­ing funda­mental freedoms. For more real time inform­a­tion describ­ing the 2000 pres­id­en­tial and congres­sional races contact Scott Schell at (212) 998–6318.

Explan­at­ory Notes for Accom­pa­ny­ing Tables:

  • Meth­od­o­logy. Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), a commer­cial firm that advises advert­isers and report­ers, compiled the data using tech­no­logy that monit­ors polit­ical advert­ising by the major national broad­cast tele­vi­sion networks and 25 lead­ing cable networks in 75 media markets reach­ing over 80% of the popu­la­tion. Each time an ad ran, CMAG recor­ded the date, time, tele­vi­sion station and length of the ad. The inform­a­tion was later supple­men­ted with estim­ates of the cost for each time slot. CMAG repor­ted the aver­age cost of the time slot for each ad aired. This captured the cost of the media buy, not the amount spent on produc­tion or place­ment.
  • Table 1: Pres­id­en­tial Race Compar­ison of Spend­ing on Ads and Tone. For compar­is­ons of aggreg­ate spend­ing on ads, meas­ure­ments are made in dollars spent on ads.
Click here to view tables.

Click here to view Septem­ber 19, 2000 press release.