Political blog downplays Citizen United effect


TPM Muckraker, a blog associated with its parent, the popular TalkingPointsMemo political reporting blog, talked with backroom Democratic election operatives, who say that reaction to the recent SCOTUS ruling on corporate campaign advertising may be overblown.

They say that there’s no way to know for sure as the landmark ruling is in the early stages of being digested by those affected, but their gut reaction is that “…there’s already so much corporate money in the system that changes will likely only be felt on the margins. And they note that the predictions of campaign-finance advocates have been wrong before.”

What corporations already are doing is getting dollars – and the word “billions” is used – to the types of organizations that put out issue advertising. The ads may not directly support or oppose a specific candidate, but can still have an impact on the vote.

Some noted that the airwaves are already so saturated with advertising in the days right before an election that it will be hard to squeeze in much more advertising to any noticeable effect.

Others said that corporate advertising intended to bolster the chances of a particular candidate can often be detrimental – they can disrupt the messaging strategy of the politician’s own campaign.

Further, operatives do not believe large companies will be entering into the fray often; more likely, small niche companies who may have a very specific legislative bone to pick with very specific candidates may decide to make an attempt to flood selected airwaves from time to time.

Some did suggest that in a year like 2010, when Republicans sense a chance to regain ground recently lost in Congress, that some corporations may step forward to help make it happen. But they did not expect this kind of corporate behavior to be a factor in a typical, less-charged election year.

RBR-TVBR observation: It’s been our observation that no matter what is done to change or tighten the campaign finance rules, more and more money seems to find its way into politics regardless.

Anyway, it’s interesting to find Democratic professional electioneers who think the Citizen’s’ United ruling is not a game-changer as others seem to believe. We’ll be watching all year to see if they’re right.

At any rate, although all cash is welcome during these recessionary times, in general broadcasters should take the prospects of increased political spending with several shakers of salt – politicians and political organizations are not the kind of week-in week-out clients that are needed to sustain a viable broadcast business model.

It would be great if they could be relied on for a 52-week contract, but of course that idea is laughable – it’s not in the nature of the category.

So when they all pile on in the space of a few weeks, and in so doing are chasing steady everyday clients off the schedule, becoming in essence replacement or overlaid business rather than windfall business, that’s not necessarily a good thing over the long haul.