by Joe Adgie
This exercise is not intended to endorse one candidate or another, nor is it intended to provide a critique on the advertisements.
The last review of political advertising for the Jan. 5 runoff showed that advertising volume and tone have changed substantially over time. The ads have turned strongly negative since the week after the initial general election and are flooding the Atlanta television market.
Many of those negative advertisements have come from political action committees that officially are not a part of any campaign but support particular candidates running for U.S. Senate.
With the balance of power in the Senate at stake, several Super PACs (political action committees) have spent millions of dollars advertising in Georgia, both earlier in the year and now during the runoffs.
Leading this group is a Super PAC known as the Senate Leadership Fund, a group that is aligned with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Senate majority leader.
Senate Leadership Fund has spent $246,272,683 in targeting candidates this election cycle, according to OpenSecrets, with the most funds going to defeat Jon Ossoff. SLF has spent $47,895,510 in opposition to Ossoff.
Donors to the Senate Leadership Fund include $62 million from One Nation, a “dark money” group affiliated with McConnell that reportedly exploited FEC rules to prevent disclosure of its spending. Another $60 million came from organizations affiliated with Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas businessman considered the 28th richest person in the world.
$30 million came from Las Vegas Sands, a casino and resort company, while another $30 million came from the Adelson Clinic for Drug Abuse Treatment and Research.
For this runoff, the Senate Leadership Fund has continued to assault Ossoff, warning Georgia voters that, should Ossoff would win the runoff election, “they” – referring to elected officials seen as socialist progressive Democrats – would “control everything.”
In another recent ad, the Senate Leadership Fund has accused Ossoff of “hiding cash” from “Chinese Communists and terrorist sympathisers.”
“Ossoff lied, bankrolling his campaign through corporate PAC donations funneled through national liberals,” an announcer says in the commercial. “Now they’re spending millions more for them, because he could help them jam through their radical agenda. Raising taxes, rigging the rules to pack the Supreme Court. Dirty money, a dirtier agenda: That’s Jon Ossoff.”
Another Super PAC has also aired advertisements targeting the other Democratic challenger in the two runoff election. American Crossroads, a group co-founded by conservative heavy hitter Karl Rove, has featured Mike Jolley, Harris County’s sheriff, in ads targeting Rev. Raphael Warnock.
“Our job is hard enough, but Raphael Warnock’s radical views put our families and neighbors at risk,” Jolley says in the ad. “Warnock calls us thugs and gangsters? He thinks we’re the problem?”
Jolley also says that Warnock does not stand up to “radicals… because he is one.”
Another ad from the PAC takes aim at Warnock’s claim that “Nobody can serve God and the military…”
The ad features several veterans, who express offense at the comments and at what they see as Warnock’s stance on military spending.
“Raphael Warnock’s a radical!” says Stan R., a Marine veteran.
“Saying no one can serve God and the military?” says Dwight H., an Army veteran.
“That’s wrong,” says Air Force veteran Paul S.
“It’s offensive to me and every service member and veteran who’s ever defended our country,” says Navy veteran Steve A.
“Warnock insists on cutting military funding,” Paul S says.
“That would put soldiers’ lives at risk,” one person says.
“And make America weak,” Paul S. says. “It would hurt Georgia bases…”
“…and kill our jobs.”
American Crossroads has spent $50,203,121 targeting candidates this cycle, according to OpenSecrets, with $16,736,518 earmarked to defeat Warnock.
Donors to American Crossroads include $23,154,840 from Senate Leadership Fund, $1.5 million from Valmore Management, $1 million from Oiltanking Holding Americas, a company that, according to Bloomberg, “through its subsidiaries, owns and manages terminals for storage of oils, chemicals, gases and dry bulk.”
And then there’s the committees from both of the major political parties, which have also not been shy in airing advertisements. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is, according to OpenSecrets, the GOP’s “chief fundraising committee dedicated to electing Republican candidates to the U.S. Senate.”
During the 2020 cycle, thus far, the NRSC has spent $6,193,891 in an effort to defeat Jon Ossoff and $11,925 to defeat Raphael Warnock, as well as $24,966 to re-elect David Perdue. They have also directly contributed $44,600 to the campaigns of Perdue and Loeffler.
Their largest contributors include $997,857 from the Charles Schwab Corporation; $868,300 from the Show Me Institute, which, according to their website, “is the only think tank in Missouri dedicated to promoting free markets in individual liberty”; $691,319 from Fisher Investments; $567,826 from Melaleuca, Inc., an Idaho-based company that focuses on online wellness; $550,750 from the Duchossois Group, a Chicago-based investment firm and holding company; and $509,667 from FedEx.
In total, the NRSC has raised $219,685,572 during the 2020 cycle.
One NRSC ad asks “who are you really putting into power?” if Ossoff and Warnock are elected.
“Nancy Pelosi, AOC and Bernie Sanders,” an announcer says. “The far-left, with complete unchecked power to defund our police, give amnesty to illegals, let government take over your health care and push massive tax cuts. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock will stand with them, not Georgia.”
Neither Perdue nor Loeffler are mentioned by name or seen in the ad.
On the other side, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has been mostly active in promoting its candidates for the election. $424,840 has been spent in “coordinated expenditures” for Jon Ossoff while $104,364 has been spent in the same for Raphael Warnock.
The committee has also directly contributed $49,600 each to both candidates.
Its largest contributors include $1,261,193 from Bain Capital, a Boston-based private investment firm co-founded by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), who is no longer with the company.
Other contributors include $696,268 from the University of California; $558,833 from Microsoft; $546,000 from Baupost Group, a Boston-based hedge fund; $498,063 from Marcus and Millichap, a California-based real estate investment firm; and $497,000 each from Lone Pine Capital, Art Advisors LLC and Soros Fund Management, an investment management firm founded by George Soros, a favorite boogeyman of conservatives.
In addition, a couple of political action committees have put out ads against Republican candidates. One such is The Georgia Way, a Super PAC that, according to OpenSecrets, has spent close to $5 million – $4,978,937, to be exact, in an attempt to defeat David Perdue.
According to OpenSecrets, “no non-generic donors/employers have been identified that have contributed more than $1,000.”
Another liberal Super PAC, Georgia Honor, has put out ads against Kelly Loeffler. That group has spent close to $6 million, $5,842,988 to be exact, in an effort to oust Loeffler.
Similar to The Georgia Way, their donors appear to have provided smaller donations at a time, as, according to OpenSecrets, “no non-generic donors/employers have been identified that have contributed more than $1,000.”
The two groups could be connected. Both groups’ websites look very similar, with their names appearing in plain text on a nature photo, with a disclaimer on the bottom of the website stating they paid for the sites and are not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. Very little other information is visible on the website, and no links to their advertisements can be found on them.
Next week, we will compare the spending from candidates and from political committees and see just how effective the spending has been. Are the advertisements pulling the numbers they hope for?