NEWS

Report: $62M in Independent Expenditures Spent on Candidate Media, Print Materials in California’s 2014 Election; Opposition Spending on the Rise

Miriam Marks | October 13, 2015

A new MapLight analysis examines California independent expenditures affecting state-level candidates and finds that $62 million was spent on printed materials and media buys in the 2013-2014 election cycle. While most independent expenditures at the federal level purchase negative ads, a MapLight analysis also finds that 74 percent of independent expenditures affecting state-level candidates since 2001 supported candidates. At the same time, the proportion of print and media spending that opposes candidates has increased from 10 percent in 2001-2002 to 33 percent in the 2013-2014 election cycle. The analysis also identifies field work and online communications as the fastest-growing categories of candidate independent expenditure spending in California.

Independent expenditures are payments made for communications that expressly advocate for or against a candidate or ballot measure. Politically active individuals, companies, and organizations make independent expenditures to influence elections by means other than direct campaign contributions. Independent expenditures cannot be coordinated with the affected candidates or ballot measure committees, and they are not subject to contribution limits.

An analysis of California independent expenditures by category finds that the vast majority of spending has gone to--and continues to go to--printed materials and media buys. From 2001 to the present, printed materials and media buys have accounted for 82 percent of total independent expenditure spending affecting candidates. According to a previous MapLight report, a total of $80 million was spent on independent expenditures in California during the 2013-2014 election cycle; of that amount, $62 million (78 percent) was spent only on printed materials and media affecting candidates. A MapLight analysis further finds that:

  • From 2001 to the present, $133 million in independent expenditure spending has paid for radio and television media buys affecting candidates. $32 million was spent on candidate radio and television ads in California’s 2013-2014 election cycle.

  • From 2001 to the present, $124 million in independent expenditure spending has paid for mailers and other printed materials affecting candidates. $30 million was spent on candidate mailers and other printed materials in California’s 2013-2014 election cycle.

Independent expenditures can be made either to support or oppose candidates. A MapLight analysis of independent expenditure spending on candidates by position finds that, within California:

  • 74 percent of independent expenditures made since 2001 supported candidates.

  • Print and media independent expenditure spending to oppose candidates has increased thirtyfold since the 2001 election cycle, from approximately $670,000 to $21 million in 2013-2014.

  • The proportion of print and media independent expenditure spending that opposes candidates has increased from 10 percent in 2001-2002 to 33 percent in 2013-2014. In the 2011-2012 cycle, 43 percent of candidate independent expenditure spending opposed targets.

A MapLight analysis also finds that the fastest-growing categories (as measured by rate of spending increase over 2009-2013) of independent expenditure spending affecting candidates are field work and online communications.

  • Independent expenditure spending on online communications affecting candidates has grown from $373,000 in the 2003 election cycle to $4.3 million in 2013-2014Online communications accounted for 1.3 percent of all independent expenditures affecting candidates in the 2003 election cycle and 5.5 percent in 2013-2014.

  • Independent expenditure spending on field work affecting candidates has grown from $122,000 in the 2001 election cycle to $4.4 million in 2013-2014.

To further explore state-level independent expenditure spending, use MapLight’s California Independent Expenditure Search Engine. More information on the tool can be found here.

 

Methodology:

MapLight analysis of California independent expenditures in election cycles 2001 through 2015 from January 1, 2001 to October 7, 2015. All numbers are based on latest data made available by the California Secretary of State as of October 7, 2015. Categorization and analysis are based on descriptions of independent expenditures affecting state-level candidates reported to the California Secretary of State. “Print” includes paper campaign materials and print advertisements. “Media” includes radio and television ad buys and production. “Field Work” includes canvassing, precinct walking, signature-gathering, and get-out-the-vote activities. “Data & polling” includes data lists, research, and polling. The “Other” category includes consulting fees, staff salaries, online communications, and various other expenses. Independent expenditures as reported by filers often span multiple categories: for example, an independent expenditure described as “Direct mail and television production,” would be included in both the Print and Media categories; such cases are counted in full within each category.

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