Presidential candidates have spent $6.5m flooding just one small television market alone with more than 10,000 political commercials in the weeks leading up to the Iowa caucuses, the first votes of the 2016 election, according to a Guardian study. The exclusive analysis of regulatory filings by the four main commercial TV stations in Des Moines, Iowa, also reveals a sharp increase in the influence of rich donors on the race, with spending by Super Pacs – organizations independent of the candidates’ campaigns which, unlike the campaigns, may raise unlimited amounts of money from individual donors – now outstripping candidate expenditure by at least a third.
TV executives estimate Super Pac spending is at record levels in Iowa, thanks in part to the supreme court’s 2010 ruling in the Citizens United versus the Federal Electoral Commission case, which removed limits on how much wealthy individuals can contribute.
“This is the first time in eight years that it’s an open race for both parties,” said Dale Woods, general manager of the Des Moines NBC affiliate, WHO. “In 2012 there were just three or four leading Republicans. Now you have a close race on both the Republican and Democratic sides.”
The Guardian analysis suggests an average of $23 per voter has already been spent in the Des Moines area, which ranks just 73rd among US television markets by number of “TV homes” but will play a crucial role in the national nomination process when voters take part in party caucuses on February 1, the first electoral tests of the 2016 election.