The Jeb Bush-affiliated super-PAC Right to Rise is the most prolific advertiser of the 2016 presidential race, and it’s looking to spend another $300,000 to place an ad during an event sure to be seen by plenty of people: the Super Bowl.
The super-PAC is crowdfunding the cost, enticing donations with swag like Super Bowl koozies, a commemorative poster, a hat, a campaign gift bag and a sneak peek at the ad before it airs. A $10,000 donation earns an invitation to a Super Bowl watch party in New Hampshire and a strategy briefing with Mike Murphy, CEO of Right to Rise.
Though the group wouldn’t discuss strategy or the content of the planned ad, they did confirm that the crowdsourcing structure is intended to promote online engagement. "This is just one way to let donors and supporters of Jeb take part in the process and know what their money is going towards," Right to Rise spokesman Paul Lindsay said.
It seems to be working. As of Tuesday, with 19 days of fundraising remaining, Right to Rise had raised over $89,000 from more than 330 donors — an increase of more than $45,000 from the previous day’s total.
This year’s Super Bowl airs just two days before the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9, the first such event in the nation, coming just eight days after the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1. Historically, candidates that do poorly in both events lose momentum and struggle to continue to raise funds. Currently, former Florida governor Bush is polling in fifth place in both states, despite the open coffers of his campaign and super-PAC, which have spent a combined total of more than $61 million, $23 million of which was spent in New Hampshire.
National Super Bowl ads cost $5 million for a 30-second spot on CBS, but Right to Rise plans to run their ad only in the New Hampshire market. There is a long-standing but unofficial policy of refusing overtly political ads during the Super Bowl in order to avoid running afoul of equal-time laws that require the same amount of air time for each candidate in a race.
However, the restrictions on local ads are much more lax. In 2014, Republican governor of Michigan Rick Snyder spent $700,000 on a local ad that ran during the Super Bowl. The gamble paid off, and he defeated a Democratic challenger to win re-election later that year.
That same year, Michigan congressional rep Pete Hoekstra ran an ad widely (and rightly) considered racist toward Asians in a bid for a Senate seat that he ultimately lost.
And Tea Party Republican Curt Clawson dropped $40,000 on a basketball-themed ad that helped get him elected to Congress in Florida.
Interest groups not affiliated with a particular candidate have an easier time running their Super Bowl ads nationally. During Super Bowl XLIX last year, the American Petroleum Institute ran a nationwide pro-hydraulic fracking ad.
And in 2010, anti-abortion group Focus on the Family’s ad featuring Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother drew fire, though the ad never mentions abortion.
That’s also probably why it was allowed to run. In 2004, CBS refused to air an ad from the liberal group MoveOn.org that criticized the economic policies of then-president George W. Bush by name.