Mucho dinero pours into swing-state Colorado for TV ads

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]F the millions of dollars candidates, party committees and outside groups have spent on TV air time in Colorado, not one dime has been spent so far for ad time at Spanish-language stations.

That’s the finding of an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation, a D.C. based, non-partisan open government group.

The group has surveyed stations since July 1, when a new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation went into effect requiring every broadcast TV station to share its political ad files online. Given that Colorado has a large — about 20 percent and growing — Hispanic population, Sunlight had expected to find a slew of new ad contracts pouring into Spanish-only stations, just as they have at English-language broadcast stations as the November mid-term election nears.

But a comprehensive review of these markets has turned up zilch. Using contracts collected by Sunlight’s Political Ad Sleuth, the group found:

– At local CBS affiliate KKTV in Colorado Springs, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee already has locked down air time from September through Election Day, when voters will choose between incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and Republican Rep. Cory Gardner. The DSCC has agreed to spend more than $375,000 on ad time at that station alone.

– Freedom Partners, a political nonprofit affiliated with Charles and David Koch, also has already secured air time in August and September at two stations in the Colorado Springs market. The Senate Majority PAC, the high-spending liberal super PAC, has blocked out at least $330,000 worth of air time in the same market.

– Although Denver is not seeing the same advertising crush as Colorado Springs, registration forms from the liberal Vote Vets Action Fund, the Karl Rove-affiliate Crossroads GPS and the Mark Udall for Senate campaign signal that Denverites can expect new ads in the upcoming weeks.

– A host of ballot initiatives in Colorado has attracted six-figure expenditures from single-issue groups, ranging from an anti-fracking coalition to the “Don’t Turn Racetracks Into Casinos” committee, spearheaded by the Colorado Gaming Coalition.

Since the July 1 deadline requiring political interests to post political ad buys online, no Spanish-language stations in Denver and Colorado Springs, or in the heavily Hispanic Phoenix and Tucson markets have sold any political ads. Phone calls to station managers at the local affiliates of Univision, Telemundo and Telefutura confirmed that they had not received any new ad contracts since the federal rule change.

Abraham Morales, Senior Associate of Hispanic Insights at Colorado communications firm SE2, said he was surprised by the findings.

“I thought that both parties learned the lesson from 2012, where they saw how important the Latino vote was for those elections. Maybe it’s one of those instances, where they have Latino or Hispanic outreach as an afterthought. It’s part of the conversation but they haven’t taken action. … Or maybe we’re looking at a different sort of strategy, more direct and less media,” he told Sunlight.

In interviews with campaigns in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District — which includes much of the Denver metro area — spokespeople emphasized their engagement efforts outside of traditional broadcast ads.

Tyler Sandberg, campaign manager for Rep. Mike Coffman, the 6th District’s Republican incumbent, told Sunlight in a phone interview that the campaign uses a variety of tactics to engage Hispanic voters, including in-person and radio appearances and that online media will also be crucial to reaching young voters — whether they speak Spanish or not.

“(I]t’s a very young population and it will be important to engage them in these types of media,” Sandberg said, noting that Coffman is learning Spanish.

Denise Baron, communications director for Coffman’s Democratic challenger, Andrew Romanoff, also pointed to nontraditional media efforts such as an immigration roundtable with Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and an online ad focused on the DREAM Act.

“In addition to those efforts, Andrew either hosts or visits multiple community events every week that focus on the diverse constituencies of this district,” Baron wrote in an email exchange, adding that the district is home to large number of African immigrants as well.

In-person appearances and online ads may be effective at reaching Spanish-speaking voters, but the six-figure ad buys at local English-speaking TV stations indicate that many well-endowed political efforts are still betting on broadcast to reach voters. Under the FCC’s new regulations, it will become apparent over this election season whether spending at Spanish-speaking stations will pick up in pace.

[Photo by Flickr user Stephen Gray]