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As Minnesota state races go, light year for TV ads

ST. PAUL — Television viewers may not detect it, but Minnesota's state-level races are generating far fewer ads this year than were aired four years ago.

Candidates and independent groups ran almost 20,000 fewer television spots as of mid-September as they did at roughly the same point in 2010, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity that was published Wednesday.

The group's data doesn't examine spending in the races for Senate and congressional seats, which have accounted for the lion's share of ad activity in Minnesota this fall.

Here's a rundown:




As of Sept. 8, the cutoff point for the center's analysis, there were just shy of 3,800 combined ads aired in races for Minnesota governor and state auditor at a cost of $2 million.

The Democratic-aligned Alliance for a Better Minnesota Action Fund was responsible for 56 percent of the ads on the air, either promoting Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton or more commonly criticizing Republican opponent Jeff Johnson.

The 500 spots run by the Freedom Club State PAC that targeted Dayton and legislative Democrats accounted for a quarter of the total spending in the analysis.

Another 850 ads were aired either by State Auditor Rebecca Otto or her primary opponent, Matt Entenza.

A small fraction of the spots came from Johnson's three primary campaign challengers.

The Center for Public Integrity relied on research from Kantar Media/CMAG, which tracks political advertising and offers a widely accepted estimate of the money spent to air each spot. The calculations don't include the money spent on ads on radio, online and direct mail, as well as television ads on local cable systems or the cost of producing the messages. That means the total cost of spending on political ads could be significantly higher.




At this stage in the 2010 campaign, there were about 23,700 ads. The overall spending behind those ads amounted to $6.4 million more than was put into the commercials run so far this year.

It's important to note that Minnesota had a wide-open governor's race last time without an incumbent. Dayton, Entenza and former House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher waged an expensive primary campaign that year.

And groups allied both with Democrats and Republicans were more active earlier.



The analysis misses out on more-recent spending by the state Democratic Party and by Dayton himself.

The DFL is a week into a television ad campaign that will cost more than $1 million. Dayton launched his first ad this week and is primed to spend more than $1.3 million on commercials between now and the election. Attorney General Lori Swanson and Secretary of State candidate Steve Simon, both Democrats, have locked in time for late next month.


While Johnson hasn't booked any time yet in his governor's bid, he insists he'll have an ad presence before the end of the month.



Center for Public Integrity: http://www.publicintegrity.org/who-calls-shots

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