In the final month of the 2012 campaign, eight candidates for statewide office have collectively spent more than half a million dollars on mass media.
In total, they invested $532,000 in television, radio and newspaper advertising, and in direct mail. A little less than half of that money went toward Vermont's gubernatorial race. The two candidates — Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin and Republican challenger Randy Brock, a Franklin County state senator — have spent $240,000 on television advertising alone during the past month.
Of course, with the advent of Vermont-based super PACs, candidate spending only tells half the story.
For instance, the two leading candidates for state treasurer — appointed incumbent Democrat Beth Pearce and Rutland's Republican city treasurer, Wendy Wilton — have spent $119,000 on mass media in the past month. But independent groups — primarily the conservative super PAC Vermonters First, which has heavily backed Wilton — spent another $220,000 exclusively on that race during the same period.
Factoring in all reported candidate spending during the two-year election cycle coming to a close this Tuesday, Brock has vastly outspent the others. He has spent at least $706,000 since launching his gubernatorial campaign last winter. Behind him are Shumlin ($285,000), Pearce ($194,000) and the Republican candidate for attorney general, Jack McMullen ($191,000).
A few things to keep in mind: The list includes the 11 statewide candidates who have filed campaign finance reports — but not those running for U.S. House and Senate. Since October 15, candidates have only had to report so-called "mass media" expenditures — TV, radio, newspaper ads and direct mail — so our count of "total campaign expenditures" way under-counts what they've actually spent in the past three weeks. Likewise, we have no way of quantifying independent groups' non-media expenditures; for instance, the Vermont Democratic Party has invested significant organizational resources in Pearce's campaign, none of which is reflected below. Lastly, some candidates pre-purchased advertising time before the October 6 mass media reporting period began, so we're likely missing some TV and radio expenditures. These figures are up-to-date as of 9 a.m. Monday morning.
1. Randy Brock — Republican for governor Total campaign expenditures — $706,000 Campaign mass media expenditures since October 6 — $121,000
Of the $706,000 Brock has spent thus far, more than 40 percent of it — $300,000 — comes from a personal loan Brock provided his campaign. The Franklin County state senator spent at least $115,000 on TV ads and $5600 on direct mail in the last month of his campaign. He received no direct support from super PACs. Only one independent group — the Vermont Republican Party — invested in mass media on his behalf: a $13,000 mailer featuring all statewide Republicans.
2. Peter Shumlin — Democrat for governor Total campaign expenditures — $285,000 Campaign mass media expenditures since October 6 — $125,000
Despite raising more than $1.17 million, Gov. Shumlin spent just $160,000 in the 22 months leading up to the October 15 filing deadline. That day, he dropped $125,000 on two positive TV ads — ensuring that he would narrowly outpace his opponent's advertising budget during the final three weeks of the campaign.
Shumlin and several other Democrats benefited from a $20,000 postcard paid for by the SEIU-funded Vermont Leads super PAC. He was also included in a $34,000 Vermont Democratic Party mailer including all statewide Dems. In addition, the party spent $2300 on get-out-the-vote robo-calls mentioning him. And the Professional Firefighters of Vermont spent $1540 on radio ads supporting his candidacy.
3. Beth Pearce — Democrat for treasurer Total campaign expenditures — $194,000 Campaign mass media expenditures since October 6 — $81,000
In an effort to match her opponent's super PAC-funded TV exposure, Pearce ramped up her fundraising in the final month of the campaign — spending $52,000 on TV ads and $21,000 on direct mail. The liberal 'Priorities PAC' super PAC spent $16,000 on TV and radio ads supporting her. In addition to its $34,000 mailer backing all statewide Dems, the Vermont Democratic Party spent another $12,000 on a mailer focused exclusively on Pearce. She was also mentioned in the $20,000 Vermont Leads postcard.
4. Jack McMullen — Republican for attorney general Total campaign expenditures — $191,000 Campaign mass media expenditures since October 6 — $91,000
McMullen, who loaned his campaign at least $153,000, spent $76,000 of it on TV ads in the last month of the campaign. He also ponied up $9100 on direct mail and $5900 on radio. McMullen benefited from a $2900 mailer paid for by the Vermont Right to Life Political Committee, as well as the $13,000 Vermont Republican Party mailer.
5. Bill Sorrell — Democrat for attorney general Total campaign expenditures — $138,000 Campaign mass media expenditures since October 6 — $0
Sorrell spent the vast majority of the money he raised during his heated primary campaign against Chittenden County States Attorney T.J. Donovan. He spent just $20,000 in the month ending October 15 and has spent nothing on mass media since October 6.
Throughout the cycle, of course, Sorrell benefited more from super PAC largess than any candidate other than Wendy Wilton. The Committee for Justice and Fairness, which is funded entirely by the Democratic Attorneys General Association, spent $194,000 supporting his primary campaign.
6. Phil Scott — Republican for lieutenant governor Total campaign expenditures — $120,000 Campaign mass media expenditures since October 6 —$6900
The incumbent lieutenant governor spent $6400 on TV ads in the final month of the campaign. He benefited from the $2900 Vermont Right to Life Political Committee mailer, as well as the $13,000 Vermont Republican Party mailer.
7. Wendy Wilton — Republican for state treasurer Total campaign expenditures — $78,000 Campaign mass media expenditures since October 6 — 38,000
In the past month, the Rutland City treasurer has spent $27,000 on TV ads and another $12,000 on radio, direct mail and newspaper ads. Of course, all that pales in comparison to the $192,000 the conservative super PAC Vermonters First has spent on her behalf in the past month: $113,000 on TV and radio and the rest on direct mail. Even that number vastly understates Vermonters First's impact on her candidacy, as the group has been steadily advertising on her behalf since the beginning of September. Wilton also benefited from her party's $13,000 mailer.
8. Vince Illuzzi — Republican for state auditor Total campaign expenditures — $71,000 Campaign mass media expenditures since October 6 — $35,000
In the past month, Illuzzi has spent $30,000 on TV ads and another $4400 on radio. Though Vermonters First spent heavily on his behalf in September, it has made no independent expenditures backing him since the mass media reporting period began October 6. Like the other statewide Republicans, Illuzzi benefited from his party's $13,000 mailer.
9. Doug Hoffer — Democrat/Progressive for state auditor Total campaign expenditures — $51,000 Campaign mass media expenditures since October 6 — $33,000
Hoffer has spent $19,000 on TV ads in the past month, along with $9200 on newspaper ads and $4000 on direct mail. In addition to its $34,000 mailer featuring all its candidate, the Vermont Democratic Party spent $500 on robo-calls backing just Hoffer.
10. Cassandra Gekas — Progressive/Democrat for lieutenant governor Total campaign expenditures — $30,000 Campaign mass media expenditures since October 6 — $0
Gekas has spent no money on mass media in the past month, though she benefited from the Vermont Leads and Vermont Democratic Party mailers.
11. Ed Stanak — Progressive for attorney general Total campaign expenditures — $3200 Campaign mass media expenditures since October 6 — $0