Tea Party group FreedomWorks is using the Occupy Wall Street movement to galvanize anti-Obama support. The organization is one of a handful of so-called Super PACs that are spending on web video, online ads, and email in preparation for the ever-closer 2012 election.
Another tea party group, American Crossroads, has begun spending on digital media to defeat President Barack Obama. Meanwhile, Obama-backer Priorities USA has outspent them both online.
Videos posted by FreedomWorks in the last week are aimed squarely at the right's frustrations with the Occupy Wall Street protests. Both OWS-related videos posted on the FreedomWorks Action YouTube channel include overlay ads pointing to petitions on the group's website. Like many outside political advocacy organizations, the goal is to build a supporter list with fresh contacts to tap throughout the next year for volunteer action and fundraising.
One video posted on November 3 links the OWS movement to anti-semitism. Overlay ads link to a petition stating, "We reject Occupy Wall Street's hate toward people of the Jewish faith." The video had been viewed more than 7,700 times as of this afternoon.
Another FreedomWorks video posted November 7 takes a somewhat less inflammatory approach, arguing that the 53 percent of Americans who pay income taxes should reject OWS. "Sign this petition to say that Occupy Wall Street does not speak for you," reads the petition page.
FreedomWorks spent over $10,000 on web advertising and video production services in September and October, according to Federal Election Commission filings. In a September email sent to supporters, the organization touted its plans to match the digital media prowess of Obama's 2008 campaign.
American Crossroads, the Karl Rove-linked conservative group that promises to be a big factor in 2012, spent nearly $28,000 this month on web video production services from VsTheBrain, a Washington, D.C. video production firm. Another $20,000 went to Xigent, a digital communications company that handles mobile, social media, and other digital work. Those were all marked as anti-Obama expenditures.
A November 7 video from American Crossroads features Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a Republican, and introduces the group's new 1600 Fund initiative. In the "Let's Get This Done" video, produced by VsTheBrain, Barbour laments "partisanship" and "leftist ideology," and criticizes the Obama administration for the stimulus package, federal debt, and an over-regulated business environment.
Big-spending outside groups can be expected to focus on negative messaging in videos and online ad creative in 2012. "Through viral marketing and online campaigns, we now have the potential to reach a million people in just a few hours, which can be very helpful or very hurtful," noted Andrew Gallo, executive producer at VsTheBrain, in an email interview. "This appeals to political groups because it's the most efficient way to spread awareness and raise support. Also, I think the YouTube generation is so used to spreading their negative opinion without much thought, with just a few clicks, in a matter of seconds - and it's exactly that spirit many of these PACs are trying to build on."
According to a press release, the 1600Fund website "will focus on all American Crossroads activity in the 2012 presidential campaign, providing one place for activists, donors and journalists to learn about efforts." While most list-building campaigns aim simply to capture names and email addresses, the 1600Fund site appears to require a donation in order to sign up.
American Crossroads told ClickZ Politics in May that it would spend a higher portion than ever online in 2012. Still, the most Super PAC spending online so far is coming from Priorities USA, a pro-Obama group founded by former Obama White House staffers Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, along with ex-Clinton adviser Paul Begala. The group is banking on Mitt Romney as the future Republican presidential nominee, and spent more than $200,000 for anti-Romney online ad services in October and November.
According to the FEC, Priorities USA paid around $49,000 to Create Advertising Group for web ad production and more than $160,000 to GSG Communications for online media buys. A recent Priorities USA video seen nearly 187,000 times targets Romney and his stances on Wall Street regulation, home foreclosures, medicare, and social security, as well as his track record on job creation while governor of Massachusetts.
FreedomWorks is also investing online in 2012 Senate races in battleground states, as is conservative group Club For Growth. FreedomWorks has spent around $3,000 on email costs to back Republican Senate hopeful Adam Hasner of Florida. Meanwhile, anti-tax group Club For Growth has made email related buys on behalf of Republican Senate candidates Josh Mandel of Ohio, Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Rafael Edward "Ted" Cruz of Texas.
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
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