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Outside Money Helps Fund TV Air War in Governor's Race

AP Photo / Steve Helber

If you’ve been watching television, you know it’s campaign season. But, as Michael Pope reports, it’s not just the candidates who are buying up TV time.

These days it seems like you can’t get through an episode of Star Trek without seeing some paid political advertising in the hotly contested race for governor. Most of those ads are paid for by the campaigns, people who work for Democrat Ralph Northam or Republican Ed Gillespie. But Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says a lot of those ads are funded by outside groups.

“People are going to see a lot of ads on TV between now and Election Day. They’re going to see a lot of targeted ads on their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and Instagram accounts. Many of those ads are going to be run by outside groups that have nothing to do with Gillespie or Northam’s campaigns.”

Outside groups like Americans for Prosperity. It’s kicked in more than half a million dollars to pay for ads supporting Ed Gillespie. And then there’s the Virginia Education Association. It’s spent a quarter of a million dollars helping Northam. According to an analysis by the Virginia Public Access Project, the campaigns and outside groups have spent about $4 million since Labor Day. Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says that money can be closely targeted.

Credit Virginia Public Access Project

“What you can do with television ads today is tailor your audience. You can choose certain cable systems and not others. You don’t have do the one size fits all advertising that was the case in the past.”

Campaigns are spending increasing time and money advertising on social media. But that’s not nearly as expensive — or as effective some experts say — as television advertising. At least not yet.

The Virginia Education Association is a financial supporter of RADIO IQ.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.
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