And the ads go on: 2012’s big campaign spenders keep up the air wars


Think the campaign season was over? Since Election Day, dozens of TV, web and radio ads have been airing in political battlegrounds, many of them directly naming lawmakers. The Sunlight Foundation has been archiving them on Ad Hawk, a mobile app that allows viewers to help flag political advertising that they are seeing and learn about the funders behind ads .

Many of these ads have popped up just this week. Though the ad content often relates to Congress’s handling of the impending fiscal cliff, in many cases they also have an eye on the 2014 election. Big spending groups on both the right and left ends of the political spectrum are involved.

This week the liberal advocacy group launched a five-figure TV ad buy in three congressional districts and three states. The House ads target two vulnerable Republicans – Bill Young, R-Fla. and Gary Miller, R-Calif., as well as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. 

Separate ads take aim at three Democratic senators, two of whom are up for reelection in 2014: Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Mary Landrieu, D-La. Nick Berning,’s communications director, said these two “may be more inclined to listen to messages from constituents than your average senator”  and will need the progressive vote in their states to win.

The ads began Tuesday and Berning said MoveOn will likely try to raise funds to keep them on the air.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also launched ominous-sounding ads this week claiming that the “Tea Party House Republicans” are holding the middle class hostage to get more tax cuts for millionaires. The ads hit 21 congressional Republicans considered vulnerable in 2014.

Last week, three unions – the National Education Association, the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — banded together to launch three TV ads in swing states. The spots call for protecting entitlements and tax breaks for the middle class. Two of the ads mention senators up for reelection in 2014—Mark Warner, D-Va. and Tom Udall, D-Colo. Meanwhile, a group called USAction is airing ads statewide in New Hampshire calling on Sen. Kelly Ayotte—who is not facing reelection until 2016–to support cuts to defense spending instead of to Medicare and Social Security.

Familiar names on the conservative side of the spectrum have been active too. Crossroads GPS launched its second round of fiscal cliff ads this week — on the radio — that goes after five Democratic senators considered vulnerable in 2014: Landrieu, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mark Begich of Alaska and Kay Hagan of North Carolina. The latest salvo comes after a $500,000 TV ad last week on cable news that said Obama’s deficit plan involves “no real spending reforms.”

Another big center-right nonprofit, American Action Network, has stuck to online ads. Its ads feature former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the president of its partner group, American Action Forum. The latest ad calls for Obama to “get serious” like congressional Republicans have.

Not all of the ads are related to the fiscal cliff. The Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBT rights, launched TV ads in the Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. markets late last month promoting same-sex marriage. 

And, along with a group called UltraViolet, unveiled a spot this week calling on Congress to renew the Violence Against Women Act, legislation that has stalled in the House.