I hypothesized recently to friends Sean Malone and Bryan Pick that we ought to examine the amount of money in politics today not solely as a function of “floodgates opened by Citizens United v. FEC” (which, according to my friend and former colleague Ilya Shapiro, incorrectly characterizes the Court’s decision), but as a function of an increase in price of TV airtime. In other words, we aren’t seeing a massive influx of cash into election communications because it is now easier for more billionaires to try to curry favor with political candidates; rather, we’re seeing political and issue campaigns becoming more expensive because of an increase in demand for television/cable airtime relative to a rather constant supply of it.
Today, that hypothesis receives initial vindication from, of all places, Rolling Stone — conspiracies about donors buying and selling politicians notwithstanding:
While TV stations are required by law to offer discounted airtime to politicians, Super PACs have to pay market rates. With these outside groups expected to buy more than half the ads benefiting the Romney campaign, the increased competition to place ads in battleground states only serves to drive up the price. In a key market like Columbus, Ohio, where campaign spots are already airing at a record pace, the ad buys are expected to exceed the haul from 2008, when political ads made up half of all TV spots purchased during the final week of the election.
I would really like funding to explore this more thoroughly. Any rich opponents of so-called campaign finance reform want to fund me? Drop me an email.
(h/t Taegan Goddard)