Most Issue Ads Aimed At Policy-Makers

By: Siobhan McDonough, Associated Press Writer

(AP) More than $45 million was spent on broadcast and print ads aimed at policy-makers, not voters, in Washington in 2001, according to a new report.

The study released Monday by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania found that legislative issue ads often air only one side of a debate.

The report found that over 375 organizations or groups purchased print or television issue ads in the Washington area. Despite the fact that only 43 groups purchased TV time in Washington in 2001, almost half of the spending — $22.4 million — was on television ads.

The top five issue-ad spenders were Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, Connect USA, and Voices for Choices.

Print advertisements ran in The Washington Times and The Washington Post, as well as three publications directed at lawmakers: The Hill, Congress Daily AM, and Roll Call. Television ads ran on local stations as well as on broadcast or cable networks.

The Sierra Club, which could not provide a dollar amount for the ads it aimed at policy-makers in 2001, noted the importance of targeting ads toward lawmakers.

“When you’re advertising, it shows a legislator you have money that you’re willing to invest and that’s an indicator of the power of your organization,” said Margaret Conway, national political director for the Sierra Club. “Inside the beltway, you’re not only reaching voters, you get to all the opinion leaders — Congress, congressional staff, lobbyists. You’re influencing the opinion elite.”

The Sierra Club ran 40 ads on environmental issues in 2002, but only one in Washington, Conway said.

Researchers found 817 distinct print and television issue advertisements that ran a total of 11,570 times in Washington in 2001. Of the 817 distinct ads, 716 ran in newspapers and 101 on television. The 716 print ads ran a total of 1,822 times in the various papers. The 101 broadcast/cable ads aired a total of 9,748 times.

The top four issues were energy, education, telecommunications, and health care, accounting for 60% of the ads purchased, according to the study.

For many issues the spending was lopsided, with one side of the issue buying the bulk of the ads. For example, those against a patients’ bill of rights outspent supporters by almost 2 to 1 — spending $712,000 to $412,000.

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