by Eli Clifton
While the Sunlight Foundation estimates the ad blitz by anti-Hagel astroturf at over $100,000, research by Lobe Log suggests that the actual total probably exceeds $1 million.
Sunlight based its conclusions on FCC-required disclosures on ad buys by two groups who hide their donors’ identities: Americans for a Strong Defense and Use Your Mandate. But that barely scratches the surface of the anonymously funded media campaign aimed against Hagel’s nomination as the next secretary of defense.
Anti-Hagel advertising — including tv and newspaper ads, website banner ads, and direct mailing — paid for by the American Future Fund (AFF), the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), Log Cabin Republicans, and Use Your Mandate brings the estimated total to over $1 million, according to Lobe Log’s research.
This is how it breaks down so far:
FCC disclosures reveal that television ad buys by Use Your Mandate and Americans for a Strong Defense totaled $109,700.
The American Future Fund committed to $500,000 in anti-Hagel ad buys.
ECI’s television commercials in the Washington, DC area cost an estimated $20,000.
ECI’s January 15 full- page ad in the New York Times cost an estimated $140,000.
The Log Cabin Republican December 27 full-page ad in the New York Times cost an estimated $140,000.
The Log Cabin Republican’s January 7 ad in the Washington Post cost an estimated $70,000.
Use Your Mandate’s direct mail campaign sent out 350,000 mailers at an estimated cost of $150,000.
Use Your Mandate’s advertising on Politico.com cost an estimated $5,000.
The total adds up to an estimated $1,134,700.
(An Excel table with more information can be downloaded here.)
Jim Rutenberg reported in the Sunday edition of the New York Times that the anti-Hagel campaign may have spent as much as “a few million dollars,” which may ultimately prove correct. But he didn’t explain how he reached that estimate.
The ads have criticized, and often mischaracterized, Hagel’s stance on gays in the military, Iran, Israel and cuts in defense spending. All of these issues have been debated ad nauseum and Hagel’s critics have certainly forced his defenders to address each of the charges.
But with Hagel’s confirmation hearing scheduled for tomorrow and, according to early whip counts, his nomination likely to be confirmed, questions linger about the ad campaign opposing his nomination, and particularly what individuals have funded it.
Specifically, while the groups paying for the advertising have sought to portray themselves as a grassroots opposition to Hagel’s nomination, not one has disclosed its donors.
To her credit, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow questioned whether the anonymous groups are simply astroturf organizations run by Bill Kristol, Elizabeth Cheney and other Republican and neo-conservative party operators.
While the groups that sponsored the ads have no legal obligation to disclose this information, knowing whose $1 million was spent over the past month would no doubt tell us a great deal about the motivations behind the most expensive smear campaign against a Cabinet nominee, certainly within living memory.