This week, swing-state residents are seeing fresh, negative ads from both sides of the political spectrum. Five new TV spots aired for the first time Wednesday, all of them in roughly the same handful of states, and all of them roughly airing over the next 10 days.
So, we thought it'd be useful to explain who's funding them-what type of group is spending how much, who gives money to those groups, and how much information those groups have to disclose. Hence, this inexact pie chart (click to enlarge):
DISCLAIMER: The ~$3.3 million figure for Obama's campaign ads is purely an educated guess. While the other groups announced the cost and duration of their TV ad-buys on Wednesday, Obama for America declined to comment on how much money it is spending on its two newly launched ads, specifically, or for how long they will run. The logic behind the $3.3 million guess: As the campaign noted, the new ads signify the third installment of Obama for America's current $10 million "flight" of TV spots, which first took to airwaves in early June. Since the previous two installments of this series each ran for eight days, and since Obama for America's last swing-state ad series (a $25-million campaign in May) lasted for about a month, we can loosely guess that if Obama's swing-state ads don't overlap, if the current ad-flight lasts as long as the previous one, and if the $10 million is spread evenly over the duration, these two ads will occupy about $3.3 million of the campaign's spending through the end of the month-generally matching the span of the other groups' new commercials.
For a thorough rundown of these new ads, see this story by ABC's Matt Negrin. In the meantime:
Obama for America, a traditional campaign committee restricted by traditional campaign-finance regulations including monthly disclosures and caps on donations, launched two new ads attacking Mitt Romney's record. They will air in nine battleground states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Restore Our Future, the pro-Mitt-Romney super PAC, is more transparent than a traditional campaign-it must report each election-related expense to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) within 48 hours of making it-but it can take unlimited money from nearly any source, including corporations. On Wednesday, Restore Our Future launched a new ad highlighting Obama's comment that the "private sector is doing fine." The group said it will spend $7.6 million to run the ad through June 30 in nine states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Koch-affiliated 501(c)4 advocacy group, is subject to far fewer restrictions. Groups of this type can take unlimited donations from nearly any source-corporate or individual-and do not report donors' identities. They must disclose donation amounts once a year to the IRS, along with other information about money raised and spent, and they must notify the FEC soon after they conduct election spending, but that's it. The main restriction on 501(c)4 groups is that, in order to claim this kind of tax-exempt status, they must spend less than half of their money directly telling voters to support or oppose a specific candidate. "Issue" ads that merely mention a candidate-or, for instance, suggest he's inept at running the economy-don't fall under that restriction and are unfettered fair game.
AFP also launched an ad on Wednesday reprising Obama's "private sector" remark. The group said it will spend $5.5 million running the ad for 10 days in six states: Colorado, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Concerned Women for America, another 501(c)4 nonprofit, launched an ad attacking Obama's health-reform law. The group said it will spend $6 million airing a new ad, through June 29, in six states: Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Virginia and Wisconsin.