The Shift to Super-PACS, By the Numbers

There’s been a lot of anecdotal and single-state evidence for the vast shift in political ad spending this year from candidates and party committees to Super-PACs and other “issue advocacy groups.” But now there’s a solid body of data (at least on ad buys for broadcast and national cable TV for the 2012 cycle up until now) from the Wesleyan Media Project.

If you are at all interested in this sort of thing (which you should be), follow the link and stare at some of Weslyan’s charts. To cite just a few glaring numbers: the total volume of non-candidate “independent group” ads run from the beginning of 2011 until January 25 of this year jumped 1600% as compared to the same period in the 2008 cycle. The volume of candidate ads dropped by more than 40%. A lot of this change is attributable to one candidate, Mitt Romney, who spent a lot of campaign money early in 2008, and whose Super-PAC, Restore Our Future, is the Clifford the Big Red Dog of 2012 spending, having (again, just through 1/25, which misses the last week of saturation advertising in Florida) shelled out over $8 million for more than 13,000 spots, well over half, by cost and volume, of total GOP Super-PAC spending (even including the sums spent by the now-defunct Perry and Huntsman Super-PACs).

There’s also data on political advertising by groups not affiliated with campaigns, overwhelmingly concentrated in battleground states. Nearly all of it came from the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity ($5.7 million), Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS ($3 million) and the American Petroleum Institute ($1.6 million).

The financial landscape for campaigns is changing before our eyes, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.