STORY BY KATIE HAVENS
Turn on the TV at this time of year and political ads are everywhere. It’s a part of every Iowan’s life, and dealing with the constant attacks between candidates is something that most are used to.
Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley are in a tight race for the U.S. Senate seat. The amount of advertising space both politicians have purchased is through the roof, so some wonder how campaigns can afford them.
The candidates are not the only ones funding their efforts — fundraising and donations are key parts of the campaign process. Candidates also rely on the money of outside interest groups.
According to The Gazette, located in Iowa City, interest groups have funded nearly 80 percent of television ads in this particular senate race.
Outside interest groups are sometimes referred to as PACs or Political Action Committees.
USA Today reported that, “Braley got help from nine independent groups, which spent $6.6 million and ran more than 12,000 ads on his behalf. Ernst, by contrast, benefited from $4.8 million and about 12,000 ads from outside groups.”
Two of the largest outside supporter groups for Braley are The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and NextGen Climate Action Committee. NextGen Climate Action is liberal billionaire Tom Steyer’s creation. It advocates for the protection of the environment.
Ernst has had significant aid from the Concerned Veterans for America and the Freedom Partners Action Fund. Both of these committees are affiliated with the Koch brothers. The Koch brothers, Charles and David, are conservative billionaires in the oil industry.
Visiting assistant professor of politics Gayle Alberda explained the heated situation between Ernst, Braley and our TVs.
“Political organizations have a vested interest in winning, and political ads are one way to get their message across to voters. The Citizens United decision changed the nature of campaigns,” Alberda said. “It only makes sense that if a Super PAC is involved in a race, let’s say supporting Candidate A, that another Super PAC will also get involved in the race to support the other candidate, in this case Candidate B. If each side has Super PACs, it levels the playing field so to speak.”
Even politically informed Drake students don’t find these outside issues relevant to campaigns.
“No, I don’t think it’s relevant. I really don’t care if Bruce Braley skipped 75 percent of Veterans Affairs meetings. I only care about what the candidate is going to attempt to accomplish in office,” said first-year journalism major Parker Klyn. “I don’t think it (outside spending) accurately reflects what democracy is supposed to be. The whole point of elected officials is to represent constituents, and ads from outside the constituency don’t fit that bill.”
“Maybe, unfortunately, super PACs are part of our electoral process at the moment. Until the law is changed, they will exist,” Alberda said.