By Tammy Joyner
Atlanta media — notably TV stations — is estimated to have brought in more than $350 million from campaign spending during the presidential election and this year’s senate runoff races, making it one of the most profitable election cycles in recent memory.
Definitive numbers on how much candidates and outside groups spent on campaign ads are expected to be available to the public later this month. Atlanta Civic Circle will take an in-depth look at those final numbers when they come out, but preliminary takes seem staggering.
“This was the highest in spending in my 30 years,” Bobby Kahn, chief executive officer of the Atlanta-based media buying firm Canal Partners Media told Atlanta Civic Circle. “WSB was the clear winner. I’m sure it was. It always is. But all of the Atlanta stations did well because everybody was buying everything they could get their hands on.”
The Atlanta market accounted for about 70 percent of the total campaign spending in Georgia, Kahn said. Georgia, as a whole, is held up as an example of how excessive campaign spending became.
Consider the two senate runoff races.
The twin elections are the most expensive congressional elections ever, according to opensecrets.org. Combined, candidates and outside groups in those two races spent more than $830 million. That figure is expected to be higher once reports are filed with the Federal Elections Commission.
The last 13 months not only saw hard-fought presidential and senate runoff races but primaries and general elections in state-level elections as well.
Khan’s projections give a glimpse into how Atlanta fared.
Between January and Nov. 3, 2020, about $150 million was spent on campaign ads on Atlanta television stations, Kahn said.
Those same Atlanta media outlets got an additional $203 million during the eight weeks between Nov. 4 and the Jan. 5 senate runoff races, Kahn said, whose company bought media ads for candidates across the country during the presidential election.
The estimates include cable TV but not radio or digital media, Kahn noted, adding that radio “gets a fraction of what TV gets.”
The deadline for filing campaign spending with the Federal Elections Commission was Jan. 31 and Feb. 4 for campaign committee filing. A full picture of the campaign spending that occurred in Georgia during the last 13 months won’t be available until about mid-February.
Georgia was central to the outcome of the presidential race and the makeup of the U.S. Congress during this past election cycle. In all, more than 4.9 million Georgians voted in the presidential election, and more than 4.4 million cast ballots in the two senate runoff races.
In addition to the candidates, an assortment of political action committees from both parties bought tens of millions of dollars worth of advertising in Georgia, according to advertising-tracking firm AdImpact.
Democrats outspent Republicans, Kahn said. As for independent groups? Republicans spent more.
As the news media industry continues to face layoffs and financial problems, the infusion of money from the 13-month election cycle “helps,” Khan said, “but it doesn’t solve the long-term problem for media.”
Want to know which media outlets and other groups were beneficiaries of the enormous campaign spending? Here’s where to look:
Information about campaign expenditures will be publicly available for download on fec.gov there are many different entities involved such as the David Perdue campaign, Kelly Loeffler campaign, Jon Ossoff campaign, Raphael Warnock campaign, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic National Committee, Democratic Party of Georgia, and all of the other independent groups. These groups had until the end of January to report their campaign spending expenditures.
Where You can find filing deadlines on campaign spending:
Check filing schedules on the Federal Election Commission’s website.
(Header image, via Unsplash: A large pile of money.)