The Interactive Advertising Bureau had the ear of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell early this year, and donated $2,400 to the Kentucky Republican. The online ad industry trade group's Political Action Committee, which is perhaps most concerned with influencing potential federal privacy legislation, doesn't shy away from Democrats, though. IAB representatives met at an event held this morning with Anthony Brown, Maryland's Democratic Lt. Governor.
The McConnell event, however, was more exclusive. "He [McConnell] is obviously a very important leader in the Senate," said IAB general counsel and SVP Mike Zaneis. "He took the time to come and do an event specifically with the advertising community up in New York and we were more than happy to participate," he added. According to Zaneis, a small event was held in January at a private residence that allowed members of the digital advertising community to meet McConnell. Zaneis said IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg was there.
"It's not very often that you get a member like that to meet with a very small group of people in our industry," said Zaneis.
Since its establishment in 2008, IAB PAC has donated more than $40,000 to several federal legislators, most of whom sit on committees that oversee important issues for online advertisers. The IAB PAC gave more than $8,000 to legislators this year through June, according to ClickZ analysis of Federal Election Commission filings.
IAB PAC has hosted fundraisers for officials running for reelection including Connecticut Congressman Chris Murphy, and donated to select legislators, many who sit on committees dealing with comprehensive privacy bills that could have a big impact on online advertisers. On the federal level, the IAB has always pushed for industry self-regulation over increased government restrictions on how online advertisers can collect and employ consumer data.
In its ongoing efforts to stave off new privacy laws, an ad industry self-regulatory privacy coalition, which includes IAB joined with the U.S. Commerce Department and Federal Trade Commission, earlier this year planned for a browser-based do-not-track standard.
According to Zaneis, the IAB PAC has hosted "meet and greets" this year with Jon Bruning, a Republican running for Senate from Nebraska, and Rep. Mark Amodei , a Republican from Nevada. The group has also held such affairs for Christie Vilsack, Democratic nominee for the House from Iowa, and wife of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Today's event for Maryland Lt. Governor Brown was held in conjunction with the Consumer Electronics Association and Digital Media Association, and took place at the offices of Washington, D.C. law firm DLA Piper. The meet and greets are not fundraising events, said Zaneis.
"The idea is to have some diversity to who we meet with and to begin building relationships with these future leaders," he said. "You want to use the PAC as an opportunity to get to know the members."
Indeed, IAB PAC doesn't only hold events or donate to typically pro-business Republicans. This year the group gave $500 to Rep. Linda Sanchez, a California Democrat who sits on the House Judiciary Committee and its Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet Subcommittee. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat running for reelection this year, has been the recipient of over $4,000 over the years from IAB PAC, including $2,000 this year. The organization has also given to Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri in the past.
"Sometimes you just have to support your greatest champions," said Zaneis of Gillibrand. "She has taken the time in New York City and on Madison Avenue to get to know the ad industry...It's not about saying, 'Oh, hey, we need to get in and educate you about this particular bill,'" he said. "She's relatively young and tech savvy and we want to see more people like that in Congress."
Ultimately, communicating its message of balancing consumer privacy with the benefits of targeted online advertising is especially important for IAB PAC. Though pending privacy bills have been on the backburner this year, the most recent hearing on the issue was held by the Senate Commerce Committee in June. That committee currently features a slew of members who have received IAB PAC cash over the years, including privacy bill sponsor and committee chair Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. Also on that list: Senators John Thune of South Dakota, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, and McCaskill.
This story was originally published on July 26, 2012, and comes in at No. 1 on our countdown of the 10 most popular ClickZ news stories of 2012. As ClickZ looks back over the past year, we're celebrating the best of 2012, as determined by our readers. Enjoy!
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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