Climate group features Pope Francis in new Iowa TV ads

Two heads of men in dark suits standing.
Screen grab from a NextGen ad uploaded online.

A political group focused on climate change plans to begin airing TV ads in Iowa and other states tomorrow featuring Pope Francis, who warned last week of “grave consequences” from global warming and other environmental ills.

The ad buy will be made by NextGen Climate, the climate change advocacy group largely financed by billionaire investor Tom Steyer.

The campaign first surfaced on The Sunlight Foundation’s Political Ad Sleuth Iowa ad feed.

A NextGen spokesman confirmed that ad will run on cable news in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Washington, D.C. The campaign will also include a billboard in Des Moines, Iowa.

Documents filed at a CBS-affiliate in Ames, Iowa, note that the ad “quotes from Pope Francis’ message on climate change.”

Shortly after Pope Francis’ official message was released last week, NextGen has been running a 30-second message on its YouTube channel. In addition to the pope, that advertisement also includes still pictures of Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Scott Walker, which are not included in the shorter TV ad.

Steyer has poured at least $67 million of his own money into NextGen’s super PAC. In its May 2015 financial filings with the FEC, Steyer’s $5 million contribution accounted for 99 percent of the group’s total receipts.

The ad buy comes as aspiring presidential candidates tour the state and meet voters ahead of the Iowa caucuses in early February, the first primary or caucus in the nation for both Republicans and Democrats.

“We currently have staff on the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire and Florida engaging communities on the need for climate action and the benefits of clean energy — and getting presidential candidates on the record about their views on climate change and building a clean energy economy,” NextGen spokeswoman Suzanne Henkel said in an earlier emailed statement.

Of course, NextGen is not the only politically active super PAC in Iowa. Super PACs and other groups loyal to presidential hopefuls have been flooding local TV stations for weeks.