An independent group backing Philadelphia mayoral candidate State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams is on a pace to spend $4 million dollars on advertising in the race.
American Cities, the committee funded by three wealthy pro-school choice donors, started its ads for Williams in late March, and is spending a half million dollars a week buying TV time. The group has now bought more than $1.5 million worth of TV and radio ad time, according to sources familiar with the placements.
American Cities spokesman Joshua Morrow declined to discuss the PAC’s plans, but if it keeps buying at that clip, the group will spend around $4 million dollars by the May 19th primary election.
The committee could decide to spend less as the election approaches, of course, but the same three donors put more than $5 millions into Williams’ campaign for governor five years ago.
American Cities isn’t the only independent group buying ads in the Philadelphia mayor’s race. Two independent groups backing Jim Kenney, Build a Better America and Forward Philadelphia, have spent around $900,000 on ads so far. At that pace, they’d top $2 million for the race.
For some perspective I spoke to Kytja Weir, who follows spending in state elections for the Center for Public Integrity in Washington
She’s assembled data on the spending in state elections of independent expenditure groups, which operate outside of campaign contribution limits and can spend any amount as long as they don’t coordinate activities with the candidates they favor.
Weir said that last year independent groups in Pennsylvania spent about $4.6 million on ads in state campaigns, most of that in the governor’s race. She said $4 million in a municipal election would be more than was spent by all the independent groups in many states.
“If this group spends $4 million, that is more than was spent in 22 states in the 2014 election cycle by independent groups,” she said.
So far ad spending in the mayor’s race by independent group’s is nine times greater than the ad spending of candidates’ campaigns. There are six candidates in the Democratic primary, and only one, Williams, has done any TV advertising.