Millions of dollars have flowed online from Super PACs this election season, but the biggest spender might come as a surprise. Endorse Liberty - a group supporting Ron Paul's Republican primary campaign - spent close to $3 million since late December. The other major player, Winning Our Future, spent over $2.3 million online in January, mainly to slam Mitt Romney and help Newt Gingrich.
If anything, the numbers suggest the online ad spending onslaught many in digital politics expected to reap from the Super PACs has yet to materialize.
Restore Our Future, the spending group supporting Mitt Romney in the GOP race, so far has paid just $241,000 for web ads and email attacking Newt Gingrich - and, more recently, surging candidate Rick Santorum. The group lists online advertising and email expenditures together so it is unclear how much of that sum went towards online ads alone. The data presented in this story is based on ClickZ Politics analysis of independent expenditure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission since the start of the election cycle.
Priorities USA, the Super PAC that many anticipated would spend a lot of money in support of President Barack Obama's campaign, has spent only around $140,000 on web ad buys.* All of those were negative ads targeting Mitt Romney.
All together, outside groups have spent $5.86 million thus far on online ads in support of or in opposition to the 2012 presidential candidates. Yet the presidential candidates themselves - including Obama - and their national party organizations spent over $10 million on web ads in 2011 alone. Obama and the Democratic National Committee spent around $7 million on online ads last year, while the Republican presidential candidates and the Republican National Committee put around $3.5 million towards web ads.
Heading into the South Carolina primary in January, Gingrich proxy group Winning Our Future attacked Romney in online ads suggesting he is a flip-flopper who once supported abortion rights. The organization went after Romney again before the Florida primary, in web ads featuring a shadowy image of the former Massachusetts governor alongside the words "Blood Money." The ads linked to MittsBloodMoney.com, which labeled Romney a "serial flip flopper" and a "progressive."
As Winning Our Future has gone negative, Ron Paul Super PAC Endorse Liberty has stayed mainly positive in its online ad messaging. The group - founded by online marketers - made the most of its online ad expenditures in 2012; of the $2.95 million it has spent online so far, more than $2.4 million went towards Google search and display, and video advertising on YouTube. Around $445,000 - most of its remaining online ad spending - went to Facebook.
Endorse Liberty has targeted Republicans and young conservatives in primary and caucus states with display ads and pre-roll video ads, most of which promote videos persuading them to vote for Paul.
*Web ad production expenditures reported by Priorities USA were not included in this tally.
|Super PAC Online Ad Spending|
June 2011-February 2012
|Super PAC||Amount Spent on |
|Endorse Liberty||$2,957,088||Supports Paul|
|Winning Our Future||$2,336,590||Supports Gingrich/Opposes Romney|
|Restore Our Future||$241,200||Opposes Gingrich, Santorum|
|Priorities USA Action||$139,860||Opposes Romney|
|Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama||$54,368||Opposes Obama|
|Red White and Blue Fund||$47,406||Supports Santorum|
|National Organization for Marriage||$40,000||Opposes Paul|
|Our Country Deserves Better PAC/ TeaPartyExpress.org||$15,069||Opposes Obama|
|DGA Action||$10,434||Opposes Paul, Romney, Santorum|
|Florida Watch Action||$10,079||Opposes Romney|
|NARAL Pro-Choice America||$3,430||Opposes Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Paul, Perry, Romney|
|Martin Appel||$3,000||Opposes Obama|
|Total Super PAC Online Ad Spending||$5,863,527|
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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