Ad spending in Georgia’s U.S. Senate races tops $300M

Published: Dec. 3, 2020 at 3:51 PM CST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - With Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs about a month away, advertisements for and against the candidates continue to fill our TV and radio airwaves.

This includes official campaign ads and what’s called “super PAC” ads, some with local law enforcement highlighted.

“I just wish somebody would fact check the ads first,” said one voter.

“The amount of bombardment is typical. It’s just the issue of the context of which they use,” said another voter.

Ad spending on the pair of U.S. Senate races in Georgia is topping $300 million. Some of those political commercials feature law enforcement and local elected officials.

“The Hatch Act says that for government officials, particularly executive officials, they cannot engage in certain types of political participation,” said Jacob Holt, a political science professor at Columbus State University. “Sheriffs sometimes get caught in this because they receive federal grants,” Holt said.

For example, Harris County Sheriff Mike Jolley is featured in a political ad funded by a Super PAC.

“That probably doesn’t break the Hatch Act because as a county sheriff, there’s just a lower standard if you ask me. So, there’s fewer things he’s barred from doing,” said Holt.

In the ad, Jolley is encouraging voters not to vote for a certain candidate, but does not state the candidate’s name he is supporting.

“You might cross a line if you said in the ad vote for this person,” Holt said.

Holt said the main goal of advertising is to motivate supporters to vote.

“Often you see Democratic ads often more kind of hit on the idea about as senator, I will do x,y and z and the reason that is often done is because that tends to influence Democratic voters a lot more. Whereas for Republicans, their ads are usually wanting to play up the idea of look at these great things I’ve done. Therefore, you can expect I can do the same thing in the future,” explained Holt.

Holt said some evidence suggests that advertising encourages partisans to vote, meaning Republican ads convince Republicans to vote. The same is for Democrats and ads for their candidates. However, he said the topic of the effectiveness of ads remains up for debate with other evidence showing the opposite.

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