By SIMON D. SCHUSTER
Michigan Campaign Finance Network
LANSING (May 10, 2020) — Here at the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, tracking political advertising on Michigan television — along with the amount campaigns and dark money organizations spend — has usually been an after-the-fact activity.
That’s changed this election season. Since the presidential primary and up until the election, already at least $45.6 million will be spent, with about $35.9 million of it reserved for after publication of this article, according to data from the firm Advertising Analytics reviewed by MCFN.
A single liberal super PAC, Priorities USA Action, makes up more than a third of the spending. They've reserved advertising space on Michigan television for every week from the March primary until the November election. It’s a total of about $17.3 million.
They’re spending more than half a million dollars on average each week to run ads attacking President Donald Trump. The largest super PAC supporting Democratic candidates, the buy is part of what Priorities USA Action calls its “$200 million commitment to defeating Donald Trump.” Many of the ads focus on the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic. Another super PAC, Future Forward, will be spending $6 million.
The presidential ads planned or running thus far are almost uniformly negative against either Trump or presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Nearly $25 million of the spending is in anti-Trump ads. Money spent on ads promoting either candidate’s strengths are a pittance by comparison, to the extent most don’t appear in the interactive graphic below (purchases less than $10,000 have been excluded). Report continues afterward.
Usually, there is a lull in advertising after the March presidential primary until August elections near. That didn’t happen this year. About $9.8 million has already been spent, indicating how these totals will almost certainly increase as the next two elections grow close. No local advertising for Michigan House primary races has yet been purchased, according to the data.
The race for the seat held by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Hills) is also heating up with about $7 million in future air time reserved and $5.3 million already spent since the primary. Peters’ most significant Republican challenger, John James, has planned to spend $800,00 this month, but is poised to be outspent throughout the year by Peters’ campaign and the super PACs supporting him, at least according to the most recent ad purchases.
In total, $4.3 million has been reserved or spent for the seat held by freshman U.S. Rep Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills) — $1.8 million from Republican opponents — and in the 8th district Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s (D-Holly) seat has attracted about $3 million in spending with no unfavorable ads currently scheduled against the freshman congresswoman.
While Democratic candidate Michael Bloomberg spent more each week during his relatively short-lived candidacy, more than $1 million at times advertising in Michigan, he spent it over a shorter period of time. After exiting the race, he promised his financial backing to ensure a Democrat is elected president in November, but has not announced specifically what form that support will take.
The week before the presidential election, though it's more than 5 months away, nearly $6 million in advertising space has already been reserved for a number of races. MCFN will continue to monitor political ad spending across television and social media as these totals increase.