Political Correction

Astroturfing The Airwaves: 10,000 Right-Wing TV Ads In 5 Days Push Total To Nearly 110,000

October 29, 2010 7:12 pm ET - by Alan Pyke

With the midterms around the corner, an update on our ad-count tracking charts seemed in order. In the five days since our last update, these groups have aired over 10,000 ads, according to ad data reviewed by Political Correction. That means that in the past 90 days, the ten biggest right-wing ad groups have aired 109,826 ads (click to enlarge):

The three biggest individual actors all rely on anonymous donors. We'll never know who's paying Americans for Prosperity, Crossroads GPS, or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to flood the airwaves, but we know they've run 51,142 ads since August 1 (click to enlarge):

AFP, GPS and the Chamber are the big dogs on the right, but they're far from the only groups spending a CEO's salary to mis-educate voters. If we tried to chart all the ad buys in our data, the resulting graphic would be an illegible forest of red lines. In all, 60 separate non-party groups on the Right have aired 142,436 TV ads in the past 90 days. If each clocks in at 30 seconds, that's 49 days of right-wing ads, mostly funded by sources who prefer to stay anonymous. The ten groups we've jokingly dubbed "small-fry" have chipped in 54,019 ads of their own in the past three months (click to enlarge):

Of these ten groups, only the NRA and Club for Growth are under any obligation to disclose their funding. Only those two can make any claim to "grassroots" status. That's why we call this series "Astroturfing the Airwaves." The sheer magnitude of right-wing ads these shadowy groups are putting on the air are bound to have an impact on Tuesday. But there's no evidence that the millions of dollars these folks are pouring into TV ads reflects any broad base of support.

If these groups had small "d" democratic roots, they wouldn't be clinging to anonymity. And their founders wouldn't be saying things like this:

"The big three stepping into the batter's box are the financial services industry, the energy industry, and the health insurance industry," [conservative operative Scott] Reed said.

It was nice of the Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity's founder to tell us what sorts of businesses are funding his ads. But this election still feels like a hold-up. "Put the democratic process in the bag, and no one look at my face." We'll never get a chance to see for ourselves, and voters will go to the polls next week without knowing who is owed $400 million worth of legislative favors.

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