October 7th, 2008
11:58 AM ET
6 years ago

Ad spending by independent groups rises in race’s homestretch

Ad spending by independent groups has risen the closer we get to November 4th.
Ad spending by independent groups has risen the closer we get to November 4th.

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (CNN) – Pundits may have spent the year declaring the passing of the 527 era - but the view from primary states this month is beginning to make the reports of that death look just a bit premature.

Insomniacs and second-shift workers tuning into Pittsburgh’s WTAE early Saturday morning saw a two-minute commercial claiming that Barack Obama “arrogantly mocked” the Bible in a 2006 speech on religion.

In a recent ad for the California Nurses Association that aired in battleground states, an image of 72-year-old John McCain flashed on the screen as a woman sang “One Heartbeat Away” – a not so subtle dig at the Republican presidential nominee’s age. The goal was to put doubt into voters’ minds about Sarah Palin’s ability to step in as commander-in-chief if something were to happen to McCain.

Veterans for Freedom has begun a multi-million dollar ad campaign against Barack Obama that accuse the Democratic nominee of caring more about his campaign than about troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And BornAliveTruth.org, an anti-abortion group, is taking aim at Barack Obama with a television ad featuring a 31-year-old woman whose mother underwent a late-term abortion procedure unsuccessfully: if "Obama had his way, I wouldn't be here," says Gianna Jessen in the new spot.

For the most part, these independent groups, many of which are called 527’s for their designation in the IRS tax code, had been relatively minor players during the 2008 presidential election season, as ambitious attempts to organize major donors mostly foundered due to a lack of interest.

At this time four years ago, independent groups had spent $120 million on commercials for the presidential race compared to the $13.2 million invested so far in this race, according to an analysis of political television ad spending conducted for CNN by TNSMI-Campaign Media Analysis Group.


So far this election cycle, spending by anti-Obama and anti-McCain groups is dead even with each totaling $6.6 million so far this election cycle. In the last two weeks, Republican issue groups have spent $2.3 million, while Democratic issue groups have accounted for about $1 million.

But there has been a recent uptick in the frequency of third-party funded ads, said Evan Tracey, CNN’s consultant on television advertising. MoveOn.org and the Service Employees International Union, which support Obama, announced major new ad campaigns last month. So did the anti-Obama conservative American Issues Project. And the pace is picking up: Six new groups have unveiled ads since Friday.

“What we have seen over the past five days is indicative of what we are going to see a lot of in the next four weeks,” said Tracey, chief operating officer of Campaign Media Analysis Group.

The strategy for many of these independent organizations is to make an impression with deep-pocketed donors who can help fund the ad and take it to a new level.

In fact, PHForAmerica asks viewers to “help air this ad on TV as often as possible” by making a donation to the organization.

“Even though an ad buy might be small now, remember these groups are auditioning right now for late donations to take these ads to a larger scope,” Tracey said. “Remember, the Swift Boat original ad buy was less than $1 million and ran in only a handful of small media markets.”

PHForAmerica’s ad first appeared as a Web video on YouTube, and drew a sharp response from the Obama campaign, which said it was “full of outright lies” and predicted the ad would never see air. Even though the ad had low production quality, it did run at 1:24 a.m. ET - and the head of the group said it will continue to do so, if only for now in the wee hours of the morning.

In the Wild, Wild West of political ads, accuracy is not always important and with 28 days remaining before Election Day – expect more independent groups like PHForAmerica to take to the airwaves. The mission: act as a disrupter, try to knock an opponent off-stride and in many cases call into question a candidate’s character, his patriotism - even his health and mental status.

In one 30-second ad from Brave New PAC and Democracy for America released in mid-September, McCain's fellow prisoner of war Philip Butler described the Republican nominee as "unfit to lead" - making the spot one of the first to mention McCain's POW stint in a negative context.

Last week, the conservative group Judicial Confirmation Network launched a TV ad that featured Barack Obama's ties to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the controversial pastor who nearly derailed the Illinois senator's presidential bid last spring, and tied Obama to William Ayers and convicted developer Tony Rezko – tough attacks which have become central elements of the McCain-Palin message against Obama in recent days.

None of these groups are allowed to communicate or coordinate with the campaigns in any way because of federal campaign finance regulations.

Both Obama and McCain were highly critical of independent expenditure groups during their respective primary contests, but the candidates have refrained from condemning the wave of new ads.

And as the 2008 campaign heads into the homestretch, and the focus shifts to turning out the base, these independent groups will likely pour millions more into last-minute ad buys. “These are going to have highly inflammatory rhetoric that is going to be steered at base voters in swing states,” said Tracey. “They want to fire up the single issue voters.”


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (206 Responses)
  1. julie

    I see the two candidates. One a new name on the political sceen with no or little experience. The second candidate is experienced and has many experiences to call on in many different crisis'. Yet the second player is behind in the race and the American majority want to call the first candidate "the man".
    Why is this? America is a power -we are the strong, the hero. Change can be good or bad! People should not cut their nose off despite their face in the name of change.
    In school I always heard America learned from its history – if so, McCain is our only choice! He has been in the political arena and actually has history behind him.
    AMERICAN VOTERS NEED TO LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE VOTING!! (not just cast a vote willy-nilly for change!!)

    October 7, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  2. John McCain HAS LOST ALL HONOR

    MAVERICK? – Or Desperate

    October 7, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  3. Jocelyn Gallant

    the Food prices are too high, What would you do to keep food prices getting even higher? There is no incentive to work , or trying to better your self, if you lose food stamps it is discentive to work. Food Stamps is good investment's to all American to end hunger in
    America.

    I do not see any Presidential Candidates ever discussion on huger in America when the food prices keeps going up it is getting harder to afford to put food on the table because the food prices are so high today. They say it will get worse before it ever gets better.

    Salem, New Hampshire

    October 7, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  4. aware

    Lets get this straight? The dems are at the root of the problem but we should give their phonie corporate welfare guy the power to continue and increase the problem? :(

    October 7, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  5. jaye

    WHY was Tom Brokaw chosen to moderate this debate?
    He is firmly in the republican base and his questions will reflect it. Just watch and see.
    This debate will be tilted to McCain and to the republican party.

    I wish someone would ask McCain his view of a DRAFT! I know McCain plans a draft and I want to hear him actually say it in front of millions of people.

    October 7, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  6. John in Ohio

    Worse, Palin's routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric's questions for her "less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media." At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, "Sit down, boy."

    That's from the Washington Post coverage of the Palin rally. Not some out-there far-left blog. The McCain campaign appeals to the worst in people. It appeals to fear, bigotry, and racism. It allows and encourages meanspirited anger and spite. Do you want these people in power?

    October 7, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  7. Dr. Mimi De La Cruz for OBAMA

    MCGREEDY THINKS WE ARE ALL IGNORANT &

    FILLED WITH AS MUCH HATE AS HE IS. WE HAVE

    HIM ON VIDEO TELLING US:

    1) FINANCIAL MARKETS NEED MORE DEREGULATION.

    2) THE ECONOMY IS STABLE.

    3) THE HEALTH CARE INDUSTRY NEEDS DEREGULATION.

    MCSHAME IS NOT FIT TO HOLD OFFICE, ANY PUBLIC OFFICE,

    IN THIS COUNTRY. HE HAS BEEN MOOCHING ON THE OUR

    TAXES DOLLARS FORE HIS ENTIRE LIFE.

    October 7, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  8. Voter

    Why isn't anyone doing an ad about Palin's tax returns? All the reports (Wall street journal, Anchorage Daily News....) seem to state that Palin did not report all her taxes (travel expenses for her kids and per diems at home) and that she owes money (filed to report about 43K or so). Palin claims she can reform Washington, but she can't even do her taxes correctly? This is information that the entire nation should know.

    Go to adn.com and find the article about Palin's failure to report all taxable income

    October 7, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  9. Dan in Waukegan

    Bravo for Kelly from Houston, TX. I too am not ashamed to call myself a liberal. If it were not for the liberals we'd have no freedoms. Conservatives say they are for less government, but what they really want is to control everyones life to suit their beliefs.

    October 7, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  10. Texan for Progression

    What is the common denominator between McCain and Bush??? You radical repugnicans.... why do you refuse to change course. And for you religous zealouts, that is like a dog returning to his own vomit.

    To Tainopower(less): is it not treason/unpatriotic to insight violence against a US government official? No??? How about to actually call for the murder of a US government officail?

    October 7, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  11. Lyn

    Political Ticker, Why is my comments always awaiting moderation. I live in Canada and keep CNN on, to hear the latest of what going on with the campaign. I also send my comments but always awaiting moderation why is that? with all the nasty remarks coming from the McCain & Palin camp , I have made up my mind and my vote will go for Obama & Biden.

    October 7, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  12. arc, Lugano CH

    TAINOPOWER October 7th, 2008 3:03 pm ET
    Will not vote for the Osama/binladen ticket it like putting the dictator of Iran has the president of the U.S.TAINOPOWER
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    A minimal intelligence requirement in order to vote would freeze out McCain/Palin Supporters like Tainopower and others.

    October 7, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  13. thomas

    Groups like this don't represent vision: they; they stand for division. The role of the government is to benefit all of the people. Special interest groups distract them from their mission and lead America into the kind of mess that we have today. Government is responsible for the lack of oversight, lack of control, and diversion of market forces that could have prevented the collapse of American capitalism.

    October 7, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  14. undecided

    To - Kelby from Houston, TX

    Very interesting Kelby, because most liberals I know are very narrow minded people with a one track mind. And when you nail them with the facts, they tend to blow up. The liberals that I know always want something for nothing and are always looking for someone to blame for their misfortune. And these people are far from generous, they are about as tight as anyone I have ever seen. Kind of like Biden, who gave less that $1000 to charity last year and Obama who won't even support his brother that lives in poverty. And as far as distributing the wealth more evenly, that is SOCIALISM which is one step away from COMMUNISM and it is made to money away form hard working people and give it to the lazy. If that is what you like, then move to China or Cuba.

    As for me thanks but no thanks.

    October 7, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  15. Debbie

    Palin's routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric's questions for her 'less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media.' At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, 'Sit down, boy.' "
    Another crowd member, upon mention of Obama's ties to Bill Ayers: "Kill him!"

    The Republican's are sinking to a desparate low.

    October 7, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  16. Chuck

    Now the republican party will really show it's true colors like when they attacked John Kerry. They're sickening.

    October 7, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  17. Jeff

    I just saw an NRA hate commercial. Defend America, defeat Obama... What is wrong with the NRA? I used to be a member, because of this I will never join again.

    Defend America Impeach Bush/Cheney!

    Vote Obama/Biden 08!

    October 7, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  18. Barbara - 65 yr old white female in NC

    Hussein is not a political label.

    It's meaning is "beautiful".

    What does your name mean? Look it up.

    October 7, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  19. Obama- Next Stop.. White House

    CNN why is that you have to watch MSNBC to hear about ALL the LIES & GAFFS that come from McDubya & Betty Boop's mouth. All the hidden stories that you Wont/Dont report.
    Can you report Betty Boop's Husband , Todd Boop was part of a seperatist group of secessionist who HATE America and thinks Alaska should secede from the US.

    Why isn't this reported ...but as soon as the Ayer's (Non Issue) was brought up AGAIN (Old News) you jumped right on it and have been talking about since Saturday to Help McDummy changed the subject from the Economy. FAIR UNBIASED REPORTING...... Be Professional.!!!!! With that said.....

    arack Your Votes!!!!

    October 7, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  20. surprised????

    TAINOPOWER.......a complete m....r f....r and we are being nice
    how much is the KKK paying you?

    Sen. Barack Husein Obama, the next PRESIDENT OF THIS UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and COMMANDER IN CHIEF

    October 7, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  21. Cuban-mami-4-OBAMA

    @ RICK: YOU COMMENT ABOUT EXPOSING THE DEMOCRAT SCANDAL.

    Sir, the scandal.......or better said DISASTER we are facing can't be blamed on Carter NOR Clinton!

    During the years of January 1994 through January 2007, the REPUBLICANS controlled the Congress, BOTH House and Senate!

    One BILL that DE-regulated banks & Wall Street IS: "The Gram-Leach-Billey Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999" guess who the "Gram" is? PHIL GRAM, MCCAIN'S ECONOMIC ADVISOR.

    The far-right likes to blame, hate, divide our Nation, lie, but they do not check the FACTS.

    How can you blame the Congressional Democrats when they have been in power for almost 1 1/2 years?

    Reagan BEGAN de-regulation, look it up, if you do not believe me!

    Also, let's talk about the CONSERVATIVE-REPUBLICAN RECORD:

    Thanks to a Republican president, Bush/Cheney our National debt has almost tripled....... over.........$10 TRILLION!

    Guess to whom we OWE OUR NATIONAL DEBT TO?

    TO SAUDI ARABIA, THE COUNTRY WHOSE TERRORIST ATTACKED US ON 9/11! AND TO CHINA AND DUBAI!

    SO, when you start to blame you better have your facts straight!

    WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF LIES AND FAR-RIGHT-PROPAGANDA!

    October 7, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  22. Darrel from Denver

    Morally and eithically bankrupt, these ads will be. I am betting the Republicans will certainly be the worst of the lot. They have no issues distorting and misrepresenting both truth and fact, even to the point of clearly lying.

    It's in their DNA.

    Pathetic losers.

    October 7, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  23. Tiff of Lithia Springs

    Hope their advertising based on the facts.

    October 7, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  24. Mari from KY

    Just a basketball mom from Kentucky voting for Obama!

    October 7, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  25. Bruce

    WOW!! It would be nice if the mud was put away. The issues are what really matters to Americans. There are a few hot heads that want to CHANT "KILL HIM", but then all you have to do is look at what party he is listening to.

    The better statesman will rise above the dirt and present the facts and lead this NATION forward. The lesser person will continue to groval in the mud.

    October 7, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
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