Television advertisements in Alabama and Mississippi promoting rival Republican presidential contenders have been paid for almost entirely by independent political action committees instead of the candidates’ campaigns.
So-called Super-PACs supplied 91 percent of the 5,592 campaign ads that aired on broadcast television stations in the two states in the past month, according to data from New York- based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks advertising.
Alabama and Mississippi hold primary elections today, and polls indicate a close race in each among former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Super-PACs dominated the spending on television because they can collect unlimited contributions and replenish their treasuries more easily than candidate committees, which are limited to raising $2,500 per donor for the primary season and already have spent extensively on previous races.
Super-PACs are “providing the campaign advertising that the candidates can’t afford,” Anthony Corrado, a political scientist at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, said in a podcast March 9 on the website of the Brookings Institution, a research center in Washington.
Restore Our Future, a super-PAC backing Romney, aired ads 2,098 times in Alabama through March 11, compared with 279 spots from Romney’s campaign, according to CMAG.
Winning Our Future, which supports Gingrich, aired ads 411 times in Alabama, compared with 131 ads by Gingrich’s campaign. Santorum’s campaign hasn’t aired broadcast ads in Alabama; the Red White and Blue Fund that backs him aired ads 282 times.
In Mississippi, Restore Our Future paid for 1,548 ads, compared with 454 for Winning Our Future and 300 for Red White and Blue Fund, CMAG data show. Gingrich, with 89 spots, is the only candidate who has aired broadcast ads in Mississippi.
Restore Our Future aired 65 percent of all ads in Alabama and Mississippi, CMAG data show. The PAC had $16.3 million in leftover funds at the end of January, Federal Election Commission data show. Romney’s campaign said March 8 that it had $7.3 million in the bank at the end of February, after spending more than it raised last month.
Gingrich and Santorum haven’t said how much their campaigns had in the bank at the end of February, though Romney has outperformed them in fundraising. Gingrich had $1.79 million in available funds and $1.73 million in debts at the end of January, compared with $1.47 million in cash-on-hand and $957,000 in debts for Santorum.
Presidential candidates and super-PACs must file updated finance reports to the FEC by March 20.
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