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Local television stations reap election windfalls

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The hotly contested race between Joe Donnelly and Richard Mourdock for U.S. Senate won’t be decided until Nov. 6. But Indianapolis television stations already can declare themselves winners based on the huge amounts of campaign cash being spent to advertise on their channels.

Throw in the Indiana governor’s contest between U.S. Rep. Mike Pence and former Speaker of the Indiana House John Gregg, and the stations have reaped a collective windfall of at least $4 million from the candidates, according to Federal Communications Commission filings. And that's not counting the estimated $4.5 million that numerous Political Action Committees have spent with them to support both state and federal candidates in Indiana.

The amounts candidates are spending on television advertising are available this year for the first time online. In the past, those interested in obtaining the figures had to physically travel to each station to get copies.

The FCC doesn't require broadcasters to upload files in a single format, however, making it difficult to get a precise accounting of spending.

Still, the records provide a glimpse into just how important the seat that veteran U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar lost to Mourdock in the Republican primary is to both Republicans and Democrats. It’s one of four seats the GOP needs to take control of the Senate.

Through Monday, Donnelly and Mourdock together had shelled out about $1.8 million—roughly $900,000 each—to advertise on WRTV-TV Channel 6, WISH-TV Channel 8, WTHR-TV Channel 13 and WXIN-TV Channel 59, according to FCC filings.

“I would say it’s the most expensive Senate race in history,” said Bill Perkins, president of Indianapolis-based media-buying firm Perkins Nichols Media, who bought spots for Lugar in the primary. “The money Mourdock spent in the primary was the most ever spent, and this far exceeds that.”

Among the more lucrative spots was a 30-second ad during WTHR’s broadcast of Sunday Night Football that cost Donnelly $4,000.

The amounts the candidates are spending undoubtedly are much larger when considering spots bought on cable television stations and on local networks in metropolitan areas outside of Indianapolis.

In addition, political action committees also are forking out big bucks to help their candidate get elected, raising the stakes even more.

Donnelly and Mourdock collectively have spent about $700,000 to advertise on WTHR—the most of any local television station. But the roughly $1.2 million various PACs have paid the station underscores the importance of the race even more.

The conservative Club for Growth Action PAC has spent more than $350,000 with WTHR while the left-leaning Center Forward tallied up a bill of nearly $300,000.

A spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Club for Growth declined to specify how much the group has spent locally but said it has contributed $1.7 million statewide to back Mourdock.

"It's one of the races [nationally] that Club for Growth Action has invested most heavily in," spokesman Barney Keller said.

Donnelly and Mourdock also have spent big locally with WISH, totaling more than $620,000 between them.

Only one of the four general managers—Larry Blackerby at WRTV—returned phone calls seeking comment on the advertising dollars.

“Every election year brings money in,” Blackerby said. “That’s been going on for a couple of months in the battleground states. Whereas here, it’s only picked up in the last couple of days [since mid-October].”

To be sure, President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney are dumping loads of money into swing states such as Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Romney is expected to carry Indiana, evidenced by the lack of attention the two are giving central Indiana. None of the four local stations in Indianapolis have reported advertising spending by either Obama or Romney, according to the FCC.

But the television broadcasters more than make up for the lack of spending by the presidential candidates with the race for Indiana governor.

Pence and Gregg have spent nearly $1.2 million each with the four local stations, with WTHR capturing about $900,000 of the $2.4 million total.

Federal law mandates that candidates are to be given the lowest rate available for a certain time spot. But it’s open season on PACs, said Perkins the media buyer.

“For a PAC spot, stations can charge anything they want,” he said, “and they will charge obscene rates.”
 

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  • well said...
    we need to take the $$$ OUT of politics in order for people to have control over the elections NOT the corporate-owned media who prostitute themselves every two years to make BIG $$$ off the elections...but the corporate media does NOT want this to happen and have fought any attempts to change it by buying the politicians
  • NO MORE ADS
    STOP THE ADS - let put in place a legal ban on ads as they harmful to everyone , like smoking....... the ads are mostly lies and 98% are negative .....has our society fallen this far that we would actually let this garbage which the politicos promote influence our decision making process - I hope not _BAN ALL POLITICAL ADS ON TV OR RADIO NOW

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    1. Now if he'd just stay there...

    2. Daniel - what about the many US citizens who do NOT follow what the Bible teaches? The Hindus, Jews, Muslims and others who are all American citizens entitled to all rights as Americans?? This issue has NOTHING to do with "What the Bible says..." Keep all Churches separate from State! Pence's ongoing idiocy continues to make Indiana look like a backwards, homophobic state in the eyes of our nation. Can't we move on to bigger issues - like educating our kids?

    3. 1. IBJ should link to the referenced report. We are in the age of electronic media...not sharing information is lazy. Here is a link http://www.in.gov/gov/files/Blue_Ribbon_Panel_Report_July_9_2014.pdf 2. The article should provide more clarity about the make-up of this panel. The commenters are making this item out to be partisan, it does not appear the panel is partisan. Here is a list of the panel which appears to be balanced with different SME to add different perspectives http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?view=EventDetails&eventidn=138116?formation_id=189603 3. It suggests a by-pass, I do not see where this report suggests another "loop". 4. Henry, based on your kneejerk reaction, we would be better off if you moved to another state unless your post was meant as sarcasm in which case I say Well Done. 5. The article and report actually indicates need to improve rail and port infrastructure in direct contradiction to Shayla commentary. Specifically, recommendation is to consider passenger rail projects... 6. People have a voice with their elected officials. These are suggestions and do not represent "crony capitalism", etc. The report needs to be analyzed and the legislature can decide on priorities and spending. Don't like it, then vote in a new legislature but quit artificially creating issues where there are none! People need to sift through the politics and provide constructive criticism to the process rather than making uninformed comments in a public forum based on misinformation. IBJ should work harder to correct the record in these forums when blatant errors or misrepresentations are made.

    4. Joe ... Marriage is defined in the Bible ... it is mentioned in the Bible often. Marriage is not mentioned once in the US or Indiana Constitution ...

    5. Daniel - Educate me please: what does the Bible have to do with laws? If the government wasn't in the business of marriage to begin with, then it wouldn't have to "define" marriage at all. Marriage could be left as a personal, religious, or otherwise unregulated action, with no ties to taxes, legal status, etc. Then people could marry whomever they want, and all this silliness would go away. Remember to vote Libertarian in November.

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