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Politics and Government

GOP super PACs make big TV buys to influence last-minute voters in Colorado governor’s race

Even after you factor out massive U.S. Senate race spending during the last midterm election, television purchases are $8 million ahead of 2014.

  • Credibility:

The 2018 midterm election isn’t over until the spending ends.

That’s evident from the $1.8 million GOP super PACs — trying to entice older voters who still watch broadcast TV — poured into spots opposing Democratic Congressman Jared Polis in the final days of the race for Colorado governor.

Polis leads Republican Treasurer Walker Stapleton in the polls, and the Democrat’s campaign has spent $7.8 million on TV advertising during the general election.

Four groups account for the new spending, based on independent spending reports filed with the Secretary of State:

  • Better Colorado Now reports spending about $1.1 million from Nov. 1 through Election Day. That super PAC formed before Stapleton entered the contest in 2017, and he initially helped the group raise money. Some of the new ads call Polis “radical and extreme,” while others criticize his name change to Jared Polis from Jared Polis Schutz in the late 1990s.
  • American Comeback Committee is spending nearly $426,000. That group is operated by the Republican Governors Association. The ads criticize Polis on health care.
  • Colorado Citizens for the Truth is spending nearly $150,000 on ads that have been rejected by some stations and roundly discounted by fact-checkers.
  • Nonprofit Compass Colorado formed a super PAC to spend $100,000 on ads calling Polis’ health care policies “radical and extreme.”

This last-minute spending in the governor’s contest comes as Coloradans endured more than $70 million in political TV ads in all of 2018 — enough to consume 152 days worth of viewing. That’s based on contracts filed by TV stations and cable providers with the Federal Communications Commission.

And the spending is greater than in the last midterm election — $8 million more after factoring out the $43 million poured into the Colorado U.S. Senate seat broadcast battle in 2014.

And it comes at a time when TV audiences and overall advertising are declining.

But television still offers a place to reach a large number of potential voters, especially older people who are more likely to vote, said Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which studies campaign TV advertising.

Much of the Colorado spending is focused on the 6th Congressional District and the governor’s race.

Roll Call puts 6th Congressional District Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican, at No 2 on its list of the most endangered House incumbents. Outside groups are spending heavily on TV ads to help his Democratic opponent, attorney Jason Crow.

Everytown for Gun Safety entered the fray last week with about $738,000 spent to support Crow. Everytown bought the ads after the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, emphasizing Crow’s support of gun control measures, versus Coffman’s opposition to such efforts.

Here’s a look at spending by contest based on contracts filed with the FCC. Stations aren’t required to file contracts with state-level issue groups with the FCC, and many don’t.

One of the big differences in TV ad spending in 2018 versus past years is spending on state Senate contests. At least $7.5 million is being spent by outside groups on TV ads in Senate contests, based on independent spending reports. And several candidates are buying network and cable TV ads, something rarely seen in 2014.

The two major parties are fighting for control of the state Senate, where the GOP holds a one-seat majority.

It may also be because it’s easier for advertisers to target cable audiences.

Among the biggest spenders in the past week based on independent spending reports is super PAC Better Jobs Coalition, which reports spending $700,000.

Of that, $450,000 went to support Republican Christine Jensen in Senate District 20 in Arvada and Wheat Ridge, and $250,000 went to support GOP Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik and oppose her Democratic challenger, state Rep. Faith Winter, in Senate District 24 in Adams County.

Coloradans for Fairness, the super PAC working to elect Democratic Senate candidates, however, has spent more than $4 million on TV, according to independent spending reports.

And the Colorado Republican Party’s super PAC reported spending $20,500 to support Secretary of State Wayne Williams in his race against Democrat Jena Griswold. Griswold has spent more than $634,000 on TV ads, and has an outside group, iVote, airing $300,000 worth of ads on her behalf.

Finally, here’s a look at spending by the top advertisers — those spending $200,000 or more — during the entire 2018 election cycle.

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