By Donna Cassata
A major labor union and an outside group committed to electing Democrats to the House have reserved nearly $20 million in television ad time for the fall in districts from Illinois to Florida as the party tries to reclaim the majority, The Associated Press has learned.
House Majority PAC, a so-called super political action committee that recently helped Democrats hold former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ Arizona seat, is investing $16 million, while the 2.1 million-member Service Employees International Union is spending $3.7 million, according to an official from the Democratic-leaning group who described planned spending. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to freely discuss the plans.
The ad reservation targets at least 47 competitive House races that include vulnerable Republican incumbents as well as Democratic lawmakers facing strong challenges.
Democrats need a net gain of 25 House seats to win back the control they lost two years ago.
Spending by candidates, campaign committees and outside groups is certain to shatter all records in an election year with the presidency and Congress at stake. Last week, the Supreme Court reaffirmed its landmark decision in the 2010 Citizens United case that allows limitless political donations from corporations, labor unions and the wealthiest Americans.
The latest ad reservation comes weeks after the independent expenditure arm of the National Republican Congressional Committee reserved $18 million in ad time to lock in the lower TV rates and boost GOP prospects in about 25 congressional districts. House Democrats earlier this year reserved $46 million in ad time.
“The Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and Karl Rove have deep pockets, but House Majority PAC has a proven ability to spend efficiently and effectively and win races — just like in the NY-26 and AZ-08 specials when we won despite being outspent by Republican groups,” Alixandria Lapp, executive director of House Majority PAC, said in a statement.
She was referring to wins by Democratic Reps. Kathy Hochul and Ron Barber, who captured the Giffords seat, as well as major Republican donors who have invested millions to defeat President Barack Obama and boost GOP candidates.
The SEIU recently embarked on a grass-roots voter contact program.
“This partnership with House Majority PAC will ensure that the work being done by SEIU member volunteers at the doors, on the phones and in the neighborhoods is backed up by a vigorous paid media campaign,” SEIU national political director Brandon Davis said in a statement.
In 15 of 38 media markets, House Majority PAC and SEIU are either sharing the advertising costs or planning back-to-back reservations.
Based on the early ad reservation, Democrats see a chance to pick up seats in the Chicago suburbs where House Majority PAC has reserved $1.6 million and $800,000 jointly with SEIU in hopes of unseating Republican Reps. Judy Biggert, Joe Walsh and Robert Dold.
In Boston, House Majority PAC has reserved $1.8 million as Democrats target New Hampshire Republican Reps. Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta, and look to help Democratic Rep. John Tierney, who is battling both former Republican state Sen. Richard Tisei and questions about gambling by his in-laws.
Republicans have reserved more than $1.6 million to help Rep. Joe Heck in a Las Vegas swing district as he tries to turn back a challenge from state Assembly Speaker John Oceguera. House Majority PAC has reserved $308,000 in Nevada.
Republicans are trying to ensure that Reps. Scott Tipton and Mike Coffman hold their Colorado seats, reserving $1.6 million in the Denver area. House Majority PAC has reserved $468,000 in hopes of knocking them out and helping Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter.
Republicans have held off on reserving time in Florida where Reps. Vern Buchanan and David Rivera face ethical questions. House
Majority PAC and SEIU have reserved $330,000 in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area as it focuses on Buchanan and $571,000 in Miami in trying to oust Rivera.
The two groups also reserved hundreds of thousands of dollars in ad time in hopes of saving conservative Southern Democrats who have to sway more Republican voters after once-a-decade congressional redistricting. Among the most vulnerable are Georgia Rep. John Barrow and North Carolina Reps. Larry Kissell and Mike McIntryre.
The reservation also includes about $1.5 million in the Sacramento, Calif., area where Democrats hope to capture two GOP seats while holding two Democratic seats that are in GOP crosshairs. Republicans have reserved $3 million for ads in the northern California city.
And in the Buffalo, N.Y., area, where Hochul is hoping to hold onto her seat, House Majority PAC has reserved $205,000. Not far away in western New York is freshman Republican Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, a top Democratic target.