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

September 28, 2004

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.