Category Archives: campaigns

“The Effect of Television Advertising in United States Elections”

New in APSR from Sides, Vavreck, and Warshaw. Abstract:

We provide a comprehensive assessment of the influence of television advertising on United States election outcomes from 2000–2018. We expand on previous research by including presidential, Senate, House, gubernatorial, Attorney General, and state Treasurer elections and using both difference-in-differences and border-discontinuity research designs to help identify the causal effect of advertising. We find that televised broadcast campaign advertising matters up and down the ballot, but it has much larger effects in down-ballot elections than in presidential elections. Using survey and voter registration data from multiple election cycles, we also show that the primary mechanism for ad effects is persuasion, not the mobilization of partisans. Our results have implications for the study of campaigns and elections as well as voter decision making and information processing.

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“Democratic Dollars Flow Once Again to Likely Lost Causes”

NYT:

Gary Chambers Jr. burst onto the national scene in 2020 with a viral video of him castigating the racism of the East Baton Rouge school district. Now, he has captured the hearts and wallets of young liberals with a video for his improbable Senate campaign that shows him smoking a large joint and calling for the legalization of marijuana.

He has almost no paths to victory over a sitting Republican senator in a red state like Louisiana. But he has raised $1.2 million.

The same most likely goes for the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, a gay minister who has raised $1.4 million to oust Representative Madison Cawthorn, the far-right Republican, from his North Carolina seat. And for Marcus Flowers, a cowboy-hat-wearing veteran in Georgia who raised $2.4 million just in the first three months of the year to try to dislodge Marjorie Taylor Greene from a heavily Republican district.

Every election year in recent cycles, celebrity Democratic candidates have emerged — either on the strength of their personalities, the notoriety of their Republican opponents or both — to rake in campaign cash, then lose impossible elections. Some Democrats say such races are draining money from more winnable campaigns, but the candidates insist that even in losing, they are helping the party by pulling voters in for statewide races, bolstering the Democratic brand and broadening the party’s appeal.

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“2024 hopefuls are already in a dark-money arms race”

Politico:

When Mike Pompeo announced his political action committee last June, he set off a wave of news stories heralding the move as a potential step toward a 2024 presidential campaign. But the former secretary of State kept his next big launch behind the scenes.

Two months later, Pompeo allies including Ulrich Brechbuhl, a close friend,West Point classmate and former State Department official, quietly formed a nonprofit group — Champion American Values Fund — to work alongside Pompeo’s Champion American Values PAC. According to corporate records from Delaware and Virginia, Brechbuhl serves as president of the organization, which can raise and spend unlimited funds without disclosing its donors — an increasingly popular feature for politicians eyeing the White House.

At least a dozen potential candidates for president in 2024 have active nonprofit groups aligned with them, according to a review of corporate filings, campaign disclosures and financial records obtained by POLITICO. Some of them, like the nonprofits affiliated with Pompeo or Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), have never been publicly revealed before. Others, like those supporting President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, have been operating in the open for years.

What they all have in common is the ability to pay staffers, fund polling and policy research, run ads and accept money from megadonors without divulging those funders’ names — or much information about any spending until many months after the fact. It’s the latest escalation in a fundraising arms race that has seen personal benefactors, super PACs and now secret money become common building blocks of presidential campaigns.

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“Abrams files lawsuit to use fundraising law meant to aid Kemp”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams filed a federal lawsuit Monday seeking court approval to use a law that gives Republican Gov. Brian Kemp a massive fundraising advantage in his reelection bid this year.

The challenge asks the court to require state officials to let her use a leadership committee under a law approved last year by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

The lawsuit says Abrams’ campaign has already created such a committee, One Georgia, and it has been raising money since shortly after she filed to run against Kemp earlier this month.

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“Philadelphia judge turned Congressional candidate who accepted rival’s cash suspended”

Reuters:

A former Philadelphia municipal judge who accepted $90,000 from another candidate to abandon his congressional campaign has been hit with a four-year suspension by Pennsylvania’s high court, according to a new order.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday confirmed the state disciplinary board’s recommendation to suspend rather than disbar Jimmie Moore.

The board agreed with the Pennsylvania Office of Disciplinary Conduct, which said Moore violated professional conduct rules when he accepted more than the federal allowance for his campaign and filed a false campaign report to the Federal Election Commission.

In 2011, Moore entered the race for Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District as a Democrat. When his campaign went into debt, his opponent, former U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, agreed to give him $90,000 if he agreed to drop out of the primary race, a disciplinary board filing said.

The money was transferred from Brady’s campaign to Moore’s under the guise of political purchases and consulting contract fees, it said. Moore accepted the money through a shell company and then filed the false campaign reports, for which he was charged in 2017, according to the filing.

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“Now in Your Inbox: Political Misinformation”

Maggie Astor for the NYT:

A few weeks ago, Representative Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican, falsely claimed that the centerpiece of President Biden’s domestic agenda, a $1.75 trillion bill to battle climate change and extend the nation’s social safety net, would include Medicare for all.

It doesn’t, and never has. But few noticed Mr. Crenshaw’s lie because he didn’t say it on Facebook, or on Fox News. Instead, he sent the false message directly to the inboxes of his constituents and supporters in a fund-raising email.

Lawmakers’ statements on social media and cable news are now routinely fact-checked and scrutinized. But email — one of the most powerful communication tools available to politicians, reaching up to hundreds of thousands of people — teems with unfounded claims and largely escapes notice.

The New York Times signed up in August for the campaign lists of the 390 senators and representatives running for re-election in 2022 whose websites offered that option, and read more than 2,500 emails from those campaigns to track how widely false and misleading statements were being used to help fill political coffers.

Both parties delivered heaps of hyperbole in their emails. One Republican, for instance, declared that Democrats wanted to establish a “one-party socialist state,” while a Democrat suggested that the party’s Jan. 6 inquiry was at imminent risk because the G.O.P. “could force the whole investigation to end early.”

But Republicans included misinformation far more often: in about 15 percent of their messages, compared with about 2 percent for Democrats. In addition, multiple Republicans often spread the same unfounded claims, whereas Democrats rarely repeated one another’s.

At least eight Republican lawmakers sent fund-raising emails containing a brazen distortion of a potential settlement with migrants separated from their families during the Trump administration. One of them, Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, falsely claimed that President Biden was “giving every illegal immigrant that comes into our country $450,000.”

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“That ‘Team Beto’ Fund-Raising Email? It Might Not Be From Beto.”

Shane Goldmacher for the NYT:

Where the money goes from there can be murky, though big payments to the operatives and consulting firms that operate those PACs have drawn increasing scrutiny from political colleagues, regulators and law enforcement alike.

Some of these operations are legal, sometimes burying the requisite disclaimers in the fine print. Others may not be. This month, the Justice Department charged three political operatives with running a scheme that prosecutors said defrauded small donors of $3.5 million.

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“House Democrats Have New Strategy for Voters of Color”

All Things Considered, NPR

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has launched a new, multimillion-dollar initiative “to engage and mobilize voters of color ahead of the midterm elections, including investments in local organizing” and in strategies to stymie “Republican efforts to spread misinformation [and] to cast all Democratic candidates as far-left.”

NPR also reports the National Republican Congressional Committee has committed to “field a truly diverse group of candidates” and is focused on recruiting “female, veteran or minority candidate” for their target districts.

This type of grassroots party-building bodes well for the future of responsive political parties, in my view.

The DCCC’s effort is being led, in part, by “Georgia Rep. Nikema Williams, chair of the Georgia Democratic Party. Her approach is clearly shaped by the Georgia Democratic Party’s experiences which were “the result of years of aggressive — and consistent — work.”

“‘[W]e can’t just show up in a community and expect people to listen to us and turn out overnight.’

‘And I had a novel idea, what if we did year-round organizing and continued to bring information to the voters and continued to let voters know how Democrats were delivering for them? That’s what we did in Georgia, that’s how we won in Georgia, and that’s what we’re doing with the DCCC,’ Williams said.”

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“NC operative Dowless rejects plea deal on ballot fraud accusations. Here’s what’s next”

The Charlotte Observer

McCrae Dowless faces 13 state felony charges largely related to his role in in Mark Harris’ 2018 run, as a Republican, for Congress in the North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. Dowless rejected a plea deal through which he would avoid significant prison time in exchange for agreeing not to work on elections in the future.

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“Political Campaigns Can Still Target You on Facebook”

From Nick Coransaniti at the NY Times

“On Tuesday, Meta, the social media company formerly known as Facebook, announced changes that, on the surface, would appear to reduce such targeting. But it remains entirely possible for campaigns to get around these limitations. . . . . Indeed, the changes announced by Meta on Tuesday — which arrived amid a growing outcry over the damage social platforms have done to the political and social fabric — will most likely just force political campaigns to switch methods.”

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“Trump Insiders Are Quietly Paying Teen Memers For Posts”

HuffPost:

In the fever swamps of Instagram, a network of right-wing meme accounts run by teenage boys and young men has erupted into an advertising powerhouse reaching millions. These memers — who regularly post far-right conspiracy theories, anti-vaccine propaganda and other incendiary clickbait — first caught the attention of obscure brands selling cheap MAGA merch, who started paying themto display ads to their rapidly growing conservative audiences. The money wasn’t great, as a few memers told HuffPost last summer, but it still felt like a big deal to watch their Instagram pages blossom into mini businesses.

Little did they know, members of Donald Trump’s inner circle would soon come knocking.

Since the 2020 election, these meme moguls have quietly collected payments to run ads for the Trump campaign’s “Election Defense Fund”; former senior Trump aide Jason Miller’s new social media network, GETTR; Trump confidant Mike Lindell’s bedding company, MyPillow; and, as recently as a few weeks ago, the National Republican Senatorial Committee. In a few cases, the memers have included high-schoolers as young as 14. Some of these discreet ad deals were brokered directly between teens and former members of the Trump White House, communications obtained by HuffPost reveal.

Most of the ads come in the form of memes with captions urging people to click customized links inserted into the memers’ Instagram bios, which lead to the promoted parties’ websites. The memers typically earn a small “conversion” fee for each person who uses their link, doled out by third-party marketing agencies working with big-name clients. Given the massive reach of several of these pages, often boosted by Instagram’s powerful recommendation algorithms, this can quickly add up. For the recent GETTR ad campaign, memers earned $0.85 per conversion with a cap of 25,000 conversions — or $21,250….

he services they provide are highly valuable: They’ve fostered relationships with huge niche communities and can launch hushed influence campaigns that are free from the kind of oversight and transparency mandates enforced through regulated advertising channels. This could open the door to dark-money campaigns and targeted, opaque disinformation operations reminiscent of when the Internet Research Agency, Russia’s Kremlin-linked troll farm, attempted to influence U.S. voters from the shadows via meme warfare in 2016.

Almost none of the dozens of meme ads that HuffPost has observed have been labeled as paid endorsements — a form of deceptive advertising known as “stealth shilling.” In certain cases, memers’ failure to disclose their compensation likely constitutes a violation of federal law for which they, the promoted parties and any intermediaries could be held liable. 

But the evidence doesn’t exist for long: Unlike an official ad placed through Instagram’s business platform, which would be stored in an online database and subject to public scrutiny, the memers tend to delete sponsored posts from their pages after just 24 to 72 hours. This is especially problematic when it comes to ads of a political nature, as it allows advertisers to target voters with virtually untraceable messaging.

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“Virginia Republicans file suit over McAuliffe’s paperwork”

AP:

The Republican Party of Virginia filed a lawsuit Thursday asking the courts to remove Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe from the ballot for failing to sign an official form declaring his candidacy. The McAuliffe campaign dismissed the suit as “desperate” and “Trumpian.”

McAuliffe won a June primary election for the Democratic nomination. But the lawsuit argues that McAuliffe should be disqualified from running in the November general election because of the omission of his signature — a move election experts say is unlikely.

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“New intel reports indicate fresh efforts by Russia to interfere in 2022 election”

CNN:

The Biden administration is receiving regular intelligence reports indicating Russian efforts to interfere in US elections are evolving and ongoing, current and former officials say, and in fact, never stopped, despite President Joe Biden’s warnings to Russian President Vladimir Putin over the summer and a new round of sanctions imposed in the spring.

Biden made deliberate mention of Russia’s operations two weeks ago when he revealed in public remarks to the intelligence community that that he had received fresh intelligence about “what Russia’s doing already about the 2022 election and misinformation” in his daily intelligence briefing that day.

“It’s a pure violation of our sovereignty,” Biden said at the time.

One of the people familiar with the matter confirmed that there have been recent intelligence reports about what the Russians are up to, particularly their efforts to sow disinformation on social media and weaponize US media outlets for propaganda purposes. There are some indications that Moscow is now attempting to capitalize on the debate raging inside the US over vaccines and masking, other sources told CNN.

Sources closely tracking Russian activity say that Moscow’s tactics are evolving and are more sophisticated than their early 2016 efforts, which included easy-to-trace efforts like buying Facebook ads. They also emphasize that elections are not Moscow’s only target.

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