Super PACs associated with 2016 Republican U.S. presidential
hopefuls Jeb Bush and Chris Christie have led the way in spending
thus far, but the TV, radio and Internet ads they have purchased
have failed to lift either candidate in opinion polls.
"You may have a rich Super PAC, but that's not going to save you at
the end of the day, at least at this point," said Travis Ridout, a
Washington State University professor and the co-director of the
Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks political advertising.
So far this year, Super PACs have shelled out $76 million on ads for
candidates, compared with just about $5 million over the same period
in the last U.S. presidential election cycle, according to a Reuters
analysis of federal campaign finance data.
The record spending reflects a sharp rise in advertising in this
presidential race, but is also indicative of the hefty prices Super
PACs are being forced to pay for television and radio spots. In some
instances, they are paying 10 times more than the candidates'
Right to Rise, which supports former Florida governor Bush, has
spent $42 million on advertising but a slumping Bush remains far
behind the leaders in the race for the Republican nomination in the
November 2016 election. Bush had the support of just 9 percent of
Republican voters in the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, essentially
unchanged since the beginning of November.
The Super PAC supporting Christie's bid, America Leads, has spent
about $9 million on advertising but the New Jersey governor was
under 4 percent, exactly where he was in early November.
Entering this campaign season, political experts expected big-money
spending by Super PACs to help shape the campaign. Super PACs, which
have the ability to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money,
offer the wealthiest donors a powerful vehicle to support causes and
candidates. But their clout remains uncertain in this campaign
Two high-profile Republicans dropped out of the race due to a lack
of voter support despite being backed by big-money Super PACs.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker had a Super PAC with money in the
bank, but after spending $6 million in three months his campaign's
coffers were bare and he exited the race in September. Perry, the
former Texas governor who quit the same month, hemorrhaged money and
ended the third quarter with just $45,000 on hand. His Super PAC
returned $13 million to its donors.
ADVERTISING RATES DIFFER
Advertising rates for the official presidential campaign
organizations of candidates such as Democrat Hillary Clinton or
Republican Ted Cruz are capped under campaign finance laws. No such
ceiling exists for what media companies can charge Super PACs.
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Couple that with stiff competition for advertising time among Super
PACs in a crowded presidential field, and the result is a tight and
expensive advertising market.
"Super PACs are coming in and paying enormous amounts of money for
the exact same thing," said Art Hackney, a political consultant in
Alaska who is helping raise money for Florida Senator Marco Rubio's
bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
For instance, this fall in New Hampshire, whose primary election is
an important early test in the race for the two parties'
nominations, Bush spent $41,140 to run 30-second ads 44 times over a
The ads appeared on heavily watched shows like prime time college
football on ABC, "Good Morning America" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live,"
Federal Communications Commission filings show.
By contrast, Right to Rise spent $139,485 for just 31 spots on some
of the same shows over an eight-day period.
The steep rates have not dissuaded the Super PACs from spending,
however. There have been about 45 percent more Republican primary
ads aired on broadcast and national TV through early December this
year than during the same period in 2011, ahead of the previous
presidential election, according to a Wesleyan Media Project
analysis of Kantar Media/CMAG advertising data.
Media buyers said the majority of those ads are coming from Super
Pacs rather than campaigns, pitting them in bidding wars against one
another. In the Republican presidential field, more than a dozen
candidates are still competing, and all but one, billionaire
businessman Donald Trump, are supported by Super PACs.
Kegan Beran, a media buyer for New Day for America, a Super PAC
supporting Ohio Governor John Kasich's presidential bid, estimated
that 85 percent of political ad buys so far have been made by Super
(Editing by Will Dunham)
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