Study: Over $100 million spent on political ads in 2002

June 13, 2002

Contestants in gubernatorial primaries in four big states -- Texas, California, Illinois, and Pennsylvania -- accounted for more than $64 million of the $107 million spent on political television advertising so far in 2002.

These findings and others are from an ongoing study of political television advertising by Ken Goldstein, director of the Wisconsin Advertising Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and professor of political science.

In Texas, Democratic businessman Tony Sanchez spent more than $8 million in the state's five largest media markets in his successful run for his party's gubernatorial nomination. His opponent, former Attorney General Dan Morales, made only a token buy of less then $25,000.

In Illinois, U.S. Rep. Rod Blagojevich spent more than $3 million in his successful run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, easily outspending his opponents: former Attorney General Roland Burris ($600,000) and former Chicago schools CEO Paul Vallas ($1,000,000). On the other side, GOP nominee and current Attorney General Jim Ryan ($2.5 million) outpaced both Lt. Gov. Corrine Wood ($2.1 million) and state Sen. Patrick O'Malley ($1 million). Planned Parenthood and Republican pro-choice groups aired over $250,000 worth of hard money ads in opposition to Ryan's candidacy.

The hard fought contest for the same Democratic nomination in Pennsylvania also drew huge amounts of advertising dollars. Former DNC chair and Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell spent $8.9 million capturing his party's nomination over Auditor General Bob Casey, Jr., who spent $7.9 million.

"These amounts are what one would expect to see in a general election," Goldstein says. "In fact, although parties and groups were active in the extremely competitive Pennsylvania presidential race in 2000, the amount spent this year by would-be governors Rendell and Casey was more than twice as much as the Bush and Gore campaigns spent in hard money in the state in the 2000 presidential contest."

In California, Republican nominee and businessman Bill Simon was outspent by former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan almost 2 to 1 ($8.2 million for Riordan and $4.4 million for Simon in the state's five biggest markets). Simon benefited, however, by the both unprecedented and massive advertising campaign undertaken by incumbent Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. Davis spent close to $12 million -- almost as much as the Republican candidates combined -- in ads critical of Riordan.

"While we knew that Davis was spending millions of dollars in this race, the magnitude is striking," Goldstein says. "The Democratic governor was the single biggest spender in a GOP primary."

Five other states -- Michigan, Massachusetts, New York, Florida, and Wisconsin -- have contested Democratic primaries for governor later this summer and fall. Ads are just beginning to air in these races, with buys by ex-HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo in New York ($750,000), as well as state Senate President Thomas Birmingham ($700,000) and former DNC Chair Steve Grossman ($350,000) in Massachusetts.

"Given what we've seen in other states and the extremely competitive nature of these races, we are sure to see big buys over the air in the late summer and early fall." Goldstein says. "We'll be watching."

The Wisconsin Advertising Project is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and uses data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG). CMAG monitors all political and issues advertising in the nation's top 100 media markets providing information on the content, volume and targeting of media buys. Goldstein has been using CMAG data since 1996 to analyze trends in campaign and issue advertising.

Every political ad aired since 1996 has been reviewed, qualified, and coded along with an extensive array of variables by CMAG staff and University of Wisconsin coders.

Goldstein says most observers believe that control of the U.S. Senate will come down to contests in Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Arkansas, Georgia, and South Dakota. While the top 100 markets monitored by CMAG and the Wisconsin Advertising Project contain about 85 percent of the entire U.S. population, no South Dakota media markets make it into the top 100. All five other states, though -- as well as most others -- will be tracked throughout the year.

Senate candidates and their allies have been up on the air early in these races with over $3.6 million already spent in these five states, a full five months before the November election. Thus far, the national parties have carried most of the advertising load with $2.3 million or 64 percent of all advertising in Senate races being paid for by party committees.

"This is the last chance for the national parties to spend millions of dollars of soft money before the new campaign finance laws go into effect this November," Goldstein says.

For more information, visit:
--Kent Barrett, 608-262-0930;

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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