Big money hits Arizona campaigns

Campaign signs line the streets in Tucson, Ariz. ahead of the election. Photograph by Harrison Leff
Campaign signs line the streets in Tucson, Ariz. ahead of the election. Photograph by Harrison Leff

The money being contributed to this election cycle shows just how much some are willing to spend in their pursuit of victory.

More than $490 million has been spent on 811,800 political advertisements for state races across the country in 2014, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Arizona came in at seven on the list, with $19.2 million spent on roughly 25,000 ads.

One reason for the high spending in Arizona is that there are a few close races, which results in additional spending, according to University of Arizona Professor Barbara Norrander, who specializes in elections, public opinion and political parties.

Many of these contributions come in the form of advertisements sponsored by different types of groups including political action committees (PACs), SuperPACs, and 501c organizations, Advertising is often purchased directly by the PACs, which then air their own ads either in support or opposition of whichever candidate supports their views.

Although this may seem like a cash cow opportunity for media companies, the federal regulations guiding the process ensure that the media companies can’t raise their rates during the election season.

“Stations aren’t allowed to control which political ads can be aired and which ones can’t, according to federal regulations, ” says Art Brooks, the president and CEO of the Arizona Broadcasters Association.

Federal law says that stations must grant their lowest rate for political advertising during the time period beginning 45 days prior to the primary elections and 60 days before general elections to give all candidates the same financial opportunity to have their voice heard.

This regulation attempts to ensure that media groups can’t overcharge for political advertising, which would make it more difficult for some candidates with lower funds to advertise.

Spending for congressional races continues to rise as each party tries to lock down available seats. Nationally, spending has gone from $1.6 billion on Congressional races in 1998, to nearly $3.6 billion spent in 2012 on congressional seats alone, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

One reason for spending increasing comes from a 2010 Supreme Court decision in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. According to Norrander, the ruling said that any attempt to limit donations that can be made by people is an infringement on their right of freedom of speech.

In the race for Arizona’s House seat in the 2nd district, both Rep. Ron Barber and his Republican challenger Martha McSally have raised more than $2 million. Barber has received $836,823 contributions from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and a further $582,682 from the House Majority PAC, two groups trying to help as many democrats win seats as possible. The National Republican Congressional Committee has contributed $1,648,267 on behalf of McSally.

In both cases, the groups are only spending money on negative adds against their opponent, and the total spent on these ads is only increasing as election day nears. In the last week, the National Republican Congressional Committee spent $309,562 on ads toward the McSally campaign, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $291,081, according to data collected from the Federal Election Commission by the Center for Responsive Politics.

McSally has raised a large amount of money from outside groups, collecting the 11th largest amount amongst challengers for seats in House of Representatives with $258,700. There are six Democrats and four Depublicans in front who have raised more, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Both candidates recived their largest donation totals from the two groups known as retired individuals and leaderships PACs. Barber recieved $391,606 from the two types of groups, and McSally received about $418,944 between the two groups, according to Federal Election Commission data. After those two categories, the industries that have contributed the most to the Barber campaign have been health professionals, lawyers and law firms and public unions.

McSally has received her biggest support from the securities and investment, real estate and automotive industries. With both candidates, groups within these various industries have contributed more money to campaigns than their own respective parties, which shows the significant lobbying occurring within the campaign.

In the case of Raytheon, which has contributed $2,802,435 nationally to candidates, those receiving support fall on both sides of the aisle, including Barber, who has received $15,930 from Raytheon even though the three candidates Raytheon has given the most too nationally are Republicans. Barber fought against removing various military functions from Arizona, a stance supported by Raytheon.

“Spending a large amount on campaigns is always a part of major elections, and that won’t be changing anytime soon,” says Norrander.


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