Posts Tagged ‘Advertising’

Timeline: A People’s Pledge

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Incumbent Senator Scott Brown and his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Warren, have made headlines this election year by agreeing to eliminate third-party involvement in their closely-contested United States Senate race in Massachusetts. For almost 10 months, the two candidates kept their pact alive.

Until now.

With neither candidate gaining a significant lead in the polls, third-party groups have begun to take action.

In five hundred words or less, here is a detailed timeline of the rise and – perhaps imminent – fall of Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren’s ambitious political pact.

2010: Sen. Brown starts the conversation

In 2010, Scott Brown ran against Martha Coakley in a special election to fill the vacant Senate seat created after Senator Ted Kennedy passed away. At the beginning of his campaign, he urged third-party groups to stay out of the race, saying he and his opponent needed to “do their jobs” and not get “sidetracked by red herring issues.”

November 2011: Elizabeth Warren announces her candidacy for the 2012 election

Shortly after declaring herself as a candidate for the Democratic Senate nomination, Brown once again released a statement asking for independent groups to pull their attack advertisements.

January 2012: The People’s Pledge

Senator Brown challenged Warren to join him in his effort to eliminate third-party spending in their election. After weeks of negotiation, on January 23rd, a final draft of their agreement was presented to both candidates. Scott Brown grabbed a blue pen; Warren, a black one, and with their respective signatures, the People’s Pledge was made official. Both candidates were applauded for their bipartisanship, and average citizens rejoiced.

February 2012: Both sides want credit

Since their successful agreement proved to be popular with the media and voters, Brown and Warren argued back and forth as to who deserves more credit for its success. Brown’s camp reminded the media it was his idea from the beginning, while Warren claimed that the original proposal she received “included loopholes that Karl Rove could drive a tank through.” Despite their arguing, both candidates remained true to their word. Independent groups continued to stay out of the election. Average citizens continued rejoicing.

 

March: The agreement is tested.

In early March, an oil lobbying group produced and aired radio advertisements in Brown’s behalf. One day later, Brown’s campaign delivered a $36,000 check to the Autism Consortium in downtown Boston.

Brown stated he was happy to help a good cause, and both candidates said they were thrilled that nobody had attempted to find loopholes in their agreement.

June-July: Polls are neck and neck

The Senate race in Massachusetts quickly became one of the most closely-contested elections in the nation. In early July, Warren was beating Brown in the polls by two percentage points, 43% to 41%.

In such a close race, people thought the third-party groups would get restless and begin exploring ways around the agreement. Brown and Warren continued publicly supporting their pact, but several influential politicos started predicting the agreement’s “inevitable demise.”

August-September: Warren’s takes a fundraising advantage

Warren’s fundraising team stepped its game up, as she established herself as one of the most effective fundraisers in any Senate race in the nation. Brown supporters were likely frustrated because they had the money but still didn’t think they could use it.

The pact lived on. People were surprised.

Late September-Early October: The week the gloves came off

In the last week of September, Americans for Tax Reform – a conservative political action group – spent $215,617 on direct mail literature that attacked Elizabeth Warren. And with that, the floodgates had opened. In the following days, The League of Conversation Voters (anti-Brown) and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (anti-Warren) spent over $1 million dollars on direct mail and door-to-door canvassing to support their candidate of choice.

Alas, after months of critics and skeptics being proven wrong, the People’s Pact began to crumble. The third-party groups couldn’t wait any longer. They found the loopholes, and they leaped through them.

Where are we now?

Neither Brown nor Warren has made a statement regarding the apparent breach in their agreement. The independent groups are claiming innocence, saying they didn’t violate anything because the language in the agreement doesn’t specifically prohibit direct mailers. However, the agreement does specifically mention the prevention of loopholes. The last bullet point states, “the Candidates and their campaigns agree to work together to limit the use of third-party advertisements and to close any loopholes that arise in this agreement during the course of the campaign.”

Unless either candidate decides to acknowledge the agreement’s final point – unless they work together to close this loophole – it seems as though the People’s Pledge has lost its appeal in this election year.

We’ll wait and see what happens next, but these two candidates respected their pact for longer than most people thought they could.

It was fun while it lasted.

 

New Apps Explain Super PAC Spending

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As they do every four years, presidential candidates are beginning to appear much more frequently during our favorite TV shows’ commercial breaks.

With the November election mere months away, the likes of adorable Subaru commercials and creative Google spots have been overrun by political attack ads funded by Super PAC groups such as American Crossroads or Priorities USA.  While it’s no secret that prime-time advertising space on network channels is extraordinarily expensive, average Americans do not know very much about the groups who sign the checks to put these attack ads on the air.

In an effort to make Super PAC information more transparent and inform the general public, Sunlight Foundation – an educational organization committed to increasing transparency in US government – and Glassy Media – a new business founded by two grad students from Harvard and MIT – recently released mobile applications called Ad Hawk and Super PAC Apps, respectively.  Using the same audio recognition technology as apps such as Shazam, these apps can listen to a political advertisement and – within seconds – give users a comprehensive bio of the group that paid for it.  Both Ad Hawk and Super PAC App include a detailed summary of the group’s mission statement and business plan, how much money the group has raised and spent to date, and how much cash on hand the group has in the bank.  They also show how much money the PAC is spending on negative ads versus positive ads and which political candidate the group supports or opposes.

Political attack ads – from both sides of the aisle – have often had a tendency to border on the line of truth.  Few would go so far as to say the ads are littered with flat-out lies, but many would agree it’d be fair to say they typically look at large issues through a very tiny window.  And in today’s Digital Age, with information spreading so rapidly on so many different channels, it’s very difficult for average voters to find the truth.  Super PAC Apps has a solution to that problem.  After listening to an ad, the application gives viewers a list of information, statistics, or claims the advertisement made with links to reputable sources that either back up or disprove the content in the commercial.  This – in my opinion – will be the most important and most helpful feature of the new app.

Obviously, these new apps won’t stop the contributions from flowing into the PACs, and they certainly won’t stop the attack ads from going on the air.  They could, however, provide average voters with information they may not have obtained otherwise, and an informed general public is never a bad thing.  So far this election year, over $300 million have been contributed to various Super PACs across the country. Thanks to the Citizens United decision, these multimillion dollar contributions remain anonymous, prompting the media to coin the phrase “dark money.”  This isn’t to say Super PACs are “bad,” but the regulations at which they are permitted to operate have loopholes that have been found and exploited at the expense of the average voter.  Since the FEC has continued to show their unwillingness to update their disclosure regulations, technological innovation has stepped in to fill in the cracks.

These two apps, if they’re used by enough people, will accomplish their goals of increasing transparency between the government and the American people.

The donors may still be anonymous, the money still dark, and the ads still factually shaky.  But now, armed with our iPhones, at least we’ll know a little more about the groups who paid for them.