Who's buying the Senate?

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 Updated:

With control of Congress in the balance, TV audiences across the country have been bombarded with political ads from campaigns, political committees, super PACs, parties and nonprofit groups. Fueled in large part by loosened restrictions on political money, an ongoing Center for Public Integrity analysis of estimates from ad tracking service Kantar Media/CMAG provide a picture of who is on the air, and where. To oust Democrats from the majority, Republicans need to pick up at least six seats.

state total
per eligible voter
estimated spending on TV ads $1 million parties groups candidates $10 million
531,600 ads
$196.4 million
estimated TV ad spending on
senate races in the 2014 cycle
What's behind this number?
259,200 ads
$92.6 million
by candidates
12,000 ads
$4.7 million
by parties with candidates
21,400 ads
$9.3 million
by parties
238,900 ads
$89.8 million
by groups

Kantar Media/CMAG monitors TV signals for political advertising nationwide, capturing ads each time they run. Then, using a proprietary formula, it estimates how much placing each ad costs.

Like any estimate, it's imperfect. Here's what it covers, and what it doesn't:

  • Just placement on TV — The estimate only covers TV ads, not other kinds of political messages, such as ads that appear on radio or online. The estimate also only includes how much money a candidate or organization spent to place the ad, not to make it.
  • No local cable — Kantar Media monitors local broadcast TV in all 210 media markets, as well as national network and national cable TV advertising. If an ad runs on a local cable channel, it won't be counted here.
  • Any political ad — Unlike records filed at the Federal Elections Commission, this information includes so-called “issue ads” that mention a Senate candidate but don’t overtly call for the candidate’s election or defeat. Unless run immediately before a primary or general election, issue ad spending does not have to be reported to the FEC.
  • No future ads — Unlike some records from the Federal Communications Commission, it only counts ads that have already run. Future ad buys are not included.
  • Subject to dispute — Since the estimate is based on a formula, it may not exactly reflect what placing the ad actually cost. Think of the cost estimate as a well-informed guess, which can provide useful points of comparison.
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Total est. cost
Candidates
Parties
Groups
1.
Georgia
$26.4 million
2.
North Carolina
$25.3 million
3.
Michigan
$16.5 million
4.
Colorado
$16 million
5.
Kentucky
$15.9 million
6.
Louisiana
$15.2 million
7.
Arkansas
$14.1 million
8.
Iowa
$12.3 million
9.
Mississippi
$7 million
10.
Minnesota
$6.1 million
11.
Alaska
$3.8 million
12.
Oklahoma
$3.6 million
13.
Tennessee
$3.4 million
14.
Oregon
$3.2 million
15.
South Carolina
$3.2 million
16.
New Hampshire
$3.1 million
17.
Virginia
$3 million
18.
Kansas
$2.7 million
19.
Hawaii
$2.6 million
20.
Montana
$2.5 million
21.
Nebraska
$1.9 million
22.
Texas
$1.9 million
23.
West Virginia
$1.8 million
24.
Maine
$1.5 million
25.
South Dakota
$1.2 million
26.
Illinois
$1.1 million
27.
New Mexico
$1.1 million
28.
Rhode Island
$49,200
29.
Wyoming
$33,300

Source: Center for Public Integrity analysis of Kantar Media/CMAG data
Data current through September 15, 2014.
What's behind these numbers?