A handful of outside groups spent thousands of dollars online to defeat longtime Indiana Senator Richard Lugar in the state's Republican primary this week. One Democratic organization that arguably helped Lugar's main opponent win is now attacking that very same GOP nominee online. In all, around $225,000 was spent on digital ads opposing Lugar, who lost the chance to run for a seventh term.
Tea Party group FreedomWorks for America dropped $138,000 on digital ads in March and April - around 40 percent of its estimated media budget for the campaign - in the hopes of beating Lugar, according to Federal Election Commission filings analyzed by ClickZ Politics.
FreedomWorks clearly has its sights set on ridding the Senate of certain incumbents it believes are big spenders and too liberal. It's also been buying up online ads opposing Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and supporting his opponent Dan Liljenquist. In addition, the group has backed Republican Senate hopeful Ted Cruz of Texas - recently endorsed by Sarah Palin - for the past few months with web ads.
FreedomWorks bought ads from Google, Facebook, AOL, and Katz 360, which sells digital audio, mobile and display ads. The group also bought through social media marketing firm Red Digital.
On the flipside, Democrats wanted Lugar out, too. For one thing, they recognized their candidate Joe Donnelly would likely have a better chance at winning against Lugar's primary opponent - conservative Richard Mourdock - than he would against the incumbent Lugar.
Majority PAC, a group dedicated to preserving the Democratic majority in the Senate, spent around $47,000 on online advertising attacking Lugar - and arguably helping to prop up Mourdock in the polls. Now that the primary battle is over, Majority PAC is actively attacking Mourdock.
"Learn more about the radical extremist Indiana Republicans nominated in yesterday's primary election," stated a Wednesday post on Majority PAC's Facebook page. It links to a page on the group's site that suggests, "Last night in the Indiana primary, long-time Senator Dick Lugar lost to an extremist ideologue, Richard Mourdock, who's bent on pushing a radical agenda in the US Senate, even if that means more partisan gridlock."
Majority PAC and FreedomWorks did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story.
Anti-tax group Club for Growth also used online ads to help defeat Lugar, spending around $15,000. The National Rifle Association of America Political Victory Fund did, too - spending around $18,000.
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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.
March 19, 2014