Bush Campaign Spending Increases; Draws Even With Gore Battle Shifts to Republican Turf - Florida, North Carolina / Sham "Issue Ads" Obliterate Campaign Finance Reg's Soft Money Party Ads All Name Can

September 19, 2000

For Immediate Release

September 19, 2000

Contact Information:

Steve Rabinowitz, Matt Dorf, 202 547-3577

Scott Schell, 212 998-6318

Ken Goldstein, University of Wisconsin 608 263-2390

Bush Campaign Spending Increases; Draws Even With Gore Battle Shifts to Republican Turf - Florida, Norht Carolina

Sham “Issue Ads” Obliterate Campaing Finance Reg’s Soft Money Party Ads All Name Candidates, don’t I.D. Party

Real Time Data Draw Detailed Picture of Spending on TV Ads in 2000 Campaign

Empirical findings reveal priority media markets for Bush and Gore; several states profiled.

The George W. Bush presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee have drawn even with Vice President Al Gore and the Democratic Party’s spending, by dramatically increasing spending on television ads since Labor Day. At the same time, the Bush campaign and RNC have shifted their focus to include at least some states previously thought to be solid Republican strongholds.

Meanwhile, both major parties continued to ignore regulations separating “soft money” ads - originally intended for party building - from candidate ads, so that there is no longer any practical difference, according to a new Brennan Center-Wisconsin (1) study. Since June 1, the major parties spent in excess of $44 million on televised campaign appeals, while combined spending by the Bush and Gore campaigns is less than $18 million. All party sponsored ads mention a candidate, and none reference the party, even though the “soft money” paying for the ads is restricted by law to party-building activities.

These findings are the latest in an ongoing study of political television advertising directed by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, in partnership with University of Wisconsin (Madison), and sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Using data provided by 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 UW political scientist Kenneth Goldstein will provide an ongoing study of political advertising in the 2000 campaign. Every political TV ad aired in these markets is reviewed, quantified and coded along an extensive array of variables by a team at the University of Wisconsin.

The unprecedented findings show that aggregate spending on ads for Bush and Gore is now virtually identical, due to increased spending for Bush since the end of August. In the two-weeks from August 31 through September 13, spending on ads for Bush exceeded spending for Gore by a margin of $8,710,318 to $7,348,302 - a difference of 18.5 percent - bringing the total spending on ads since June 1 to slightly more than $31 million for each candidate.

Nonetheless, Gore retains a sizable advantage in spending on ads in the major media markets in the battleground states of Michigan (Detroit, Flint and Grand Rapids); Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Scranton/Wilkes Barre); Wisconsin (Milwaukee and Green Bay); and New Mexico (Albuquerque).

Bush is dominating the television airwaves in Florida, once believed to be a solid Republican state. From August 31 to September 13, Bush ran almost five times as many ads as Gore in Miami (1896 GRPs to 413 GRPs), and double the television ads in West Palm Beach, Tampa, and Orlando. In Jacksonville, Bush paid for ads totaling 1712 gross ratings points, while Gore conducted no advertising. Bush is spending as well in Republican North Carolina, while spending modestly in small and medium sized markets in California, increasingly believed to be a solid Democratic state.

Other findings include:

  • Spending on ads by groups in the presidential race is, at this point, tiny compared to spending by candidates and parties.
  • Candidates are leaving the dirty work of negative advertising almost exclusively to the parties.
  • In the presidential race, the Democratic Party’s ads are more negative than the Republican Party’s (as a percentage of overall spending, 32 percent of Democratic Party ads were attack ads, compared to 20 percent of Republican Party ads).

“Looking at these hard facts leaves no room for doubt - the campaign finance system in this country is dead and buried,” said E. Joshua Rosenkranz, President of the Brennan Center. “With ‘soft money’ from the corporations and labor unions that are barred from making direct campaign contributions, the political parties now dwarf all other actors in influencing our elections. The American political parties are engaged in the greatest money laundering scheme in history.”

“Partly because of the Democrats” advertising advantage built in August, the election is now being played on Republican turf,” said University of Wisconsin Professor Ken Goldstein. “The Bush camp is finding it needs to spend money on advertising in states like Florida and North Carolina - places that are the core of any winning Republican presidential campaign - when it would rather use those dollars in battleground states like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania.”

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-Wisconsin study will for the duration of the campaign reveal the untold story of television advertising paid for by candidates, parties, and groups:

  • Spending on ads by candidates, parties, and allied groups - plus the tone (promote, attack, contrast) of those ads.
  • Priority media markets targeted by the Republican and Democratic parties during the most recent two weeks.
  • Profiles of advertising in battleground states (starting with Michigan and Pennsylvania).
  • 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 and gross ratings points 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.

  • Tables 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b. Analysis of intensity of activity in discreet media markets is provided in “Gross Ratings Points.” A Gross Ratings Point ("GRP") represents one percent of a media market viewing audience seeing an ad one time. Political media consultants routinely suggest that 1000 points, therefore, represent the equivalent of 100% of a market viewing a particular spot 10 times. But because of demographic targeting, such an ad is more likely to be viewed more often by a narrower audience.

  • Table 2: Presidential Race - Priority Media Markets. Gross ratings points figures reflect combined activity of presidential candidate and major party in particular media market.

  • Table 3: Presidential Race - Major Media Markets in Key States. Gross ratings points figures reflect combined activity of presidential candidate and major party. Figures for additional media markets are available.

To view tables, click on the links below:

    1 The information here is the product of a joint study of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the University of Wisconsin - Madison. The entirety of the work is made possible by funding received from the Pew Charitable Trusts.