In what has become a quadrennial economic stimulus, Connecticut candidates for office spent millions of dollars during the 2012 campaign on office spaces and supplies, meals, mailings, hotel rooms, train tickets, salaries, taxes, flowers and even wine and liquor.
As the campaigns geared up for the home stretch, however, the latter items represented just a fraction of the total expenditures, with the overwhelming majority of all dollars going toward advertising and media services.
The Democratic and Republican candidates in the race for Connecticut’s open Senate seat and in the state’s five congressional races reported a combined $23.5 million in expenditures from July through the end of September.
The data were based on the candidates’ October Quarterly filings, which spanned the period from either July 1 to Sept. 30 or July 26 to Sept. 30.
Of those expenditures, more than $17.25 million, or 73 percent, went toward television, radio, online and print media advertisements, advertisements placed at events and various venues, media and communications consulting services, and media production services.
While candidates spend large sums of money getting their campaign operations up and running, from renting out office spaces and buying office supplies to erecting signs and fliers, “The big nut is media spending,” said Kevin McEvoy, professor of marketing at the University of Connecticut School of Business in Stamford.
“Those other things subtly add up, but it’s not something that’s automatically noticeable,” McEvoy said. “The big thing that is noticeable is the spending that goes into the media.”
The race for the seat being vacated by long-time Sen. Joe Lieberman, who began his run in Washington as a Democrat but eventually switched his affiliation to Independent, has generated the most activity.
Between July 26 and Sept. 30, Republican nominee Linda McMahon totaled nearly $12.8 million in advertising and ad-related spending and Democratic nominee and current U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy totaled more than $2.3 million in advertising and ad-related spending.
“That’s blowing away previous spending for one particular seat,” McEvoy said. He said the Senate race has likely generated more buzz because there is no incumbent running, with Lieberman retiring.
“It’s considered a high-stakes race because there’s no incumbent and the incumbent we did have is a swing vote,” McEvoy said. “So both parties are intensely interested in being able to own that seat, to take it out of the swing vote category and put it deeper into their own caucus.”
In Connecticut’s fourth congressional district, which covers most of Fairfield County, Republican nominee Steve Obsitnik doubled the advertising spending of incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Himes from July 1 to Sept. 30.
Himes, a Greenwich Democrat, spent more than $235,000 for the October Quarterly period, while Obsitnik, a Westport businessman, spent nearly $528,000.
The spending patterns of Connecticut’s 10 major-party congressional candidates differed significantly from those of the state’s Senate candidates.
The bulk of the advertising dollars spent by Murphy and McMahon went toward television ad purchases provided by firms such as Media Strategies & Research, with offices in Denver and Fairfax, Va.; Struble Eichenbaum Communications, based in Washington D.C.; Mentzer Media Services Inc., based in Towson, Md.; and Harris Media L.L.C., based in Austin, Texas.
While several of the 10 Congressional candidates paid firms based in the Washington, D.C. and New York City areas to purchase ad slots on their behalf, many of the candidates also bought ad space directly from Connecticut publications and local television and radio stations and used Connecticut-based firms such as Capitol Report Media Group L.L.C., based in East Haddam, and Creative Content Marketing L.L.C., based in Wilton.
“In the state of Connecticut, the biggest impact you’re going to see is in the local media,” McEvoy said. “There’s really not a question of whether the election cycle pumps money into the economy … it does a lot for the local economy.”
Nationally, the presidential campaigns, including the various political action committees (PACs) and super PACs that support each candidate, have each raised well over $1 billion dollars.
Between April 11 and Oct. 30, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign and its supporters spent a total of $386 million on television advertisements – 91 percent of them negative, according to data compiled by Kantar Media for The Washington Post.
During that same period, President Obama’s campaign and groups supporting it spent $347 million on TV ads, of which 85 percent were negative.
The candidates and their supporters concentrated the bulk of their ad dollars in a dozen or so key swing states, including Florida, where Democrats and Republicans combined to spend $147 million from April 11 to Oct. 30; Virginia, where they spent $131 million; and Ohio, where they spent $128 million.
“For the more local elections, the spending won’t be $2 billion – it’s $15 million and a lot of that spending is going to be here” and to firms in Connecticut, McEvoy said.