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$5.5 million spent on TV ads in Michigan Governor’s race so far

October 6, 2010

According to new data from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN) the Democrats and Republicans have spent a combined $5.5 million on political TV ads just in the Governor’s race.

The largest TV market in which gubernatorial ads were run was Detroit, where TV stations made $2.5 million alone from early August through October 3. The Grand Rapids TV market was the second largest recipient of campaign money for airtime with a little over $1.1 million being spent by the Democrats and Republicans.

However, MCFN also notes that the bulk of the money being spent for both Rick Snyder and Virg Bernero are coming from proxy sources and not the candidate campaigns directly.

For instance, Rick Snyder has not sent one dollar on paid TV ads since he won the August 3 Republican Primary. The $2.1 million spent on running pro-Snyder or anti-Bernero ads have come from the Republican Governor’s Association.

On the Democrat’s side the Bernero campaign has spent $995,000 on airing TV ads since August 3, but the bulk of ads supporting him have come from the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee, which has spent $2.4 million through October 3rd.

According to MCFN director Rich Robinson, the Republican sources have been less transparent in where their money is coming from and their relationship to the candidate Rick Snyder. Robinson believes that some of same video footage used by Snyder in the Primary race is being used by the Republican Governor’s Association in the current ads, but there is no evidence of this relationship in the TV station public files since the FCC doesn’t require that kind of disclosure.

Beyond the lack of transparency in how the money is being spent it raises other issue relevant to information and priorities. First, how do these amounts of money impact TV stations and their ability to do news coverage of these large political campaigns, especially when they are making thousands and in some cases, several million? As we have documented in previous gubernatorial races, local TV stations give limited coverage and what coverage they give is overwhelmingly poll driven or horse-race coverage.

Second, considering how communities across the state are faced with major budget deficits wouldn’t it be better for the political parties to just give the money to cities instead of private broadcasters? It of course will never happen, but it illustrates what the political parties are committed to. They are committed to their own parties and not the people. One could argue that political parties giving directly to cities/communities would be a way of buying votes, but at least the money would be used for basic city services and not end up in the hands of local TV station, all of which are owned by larger media conglomerates.

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