Much attention is given to the spending of the primary campaigns, how long they've been on TV, how much they're spending and so on. When a group comes in and does nasty television ads attacking a candidate, that gets attention. But independent expenditure campaigns on behalf of the primary candidates have gotten very little attention this campaign season. Much of the spending early in the campaign was by the PAC's of three organizations—the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and EMILY's List. A review of independent expenditures by these three groups shows that through the Wisconsin primary, they spent $4.4 million in direct voter contact on behalf of Hillary Clinton. Their spending was concentrated in states where Clinton has performed well, including some of her biggest wins on Super Tuesday. Their ability to deliver wins for Clinton appears to be fading, but early in the campaign, through an apparent focus on increasing turnout and performance among women voters, Hillary Clinton's candidacy may have been saved by AFSCME, the AFT and EMILY's List.
Before we go further, a quick explanation of independent expenditures (IE) will probably help. Many people have heard of 527's, which run ads or do quasi-campaign activity. 527's operate under limitations, however, which prevent them from doing what is called "express advocacy," which is generally any message that advocates a vote for or against a candidate. Independent expenditure campaigns can call on people to vote for or against. The reason for the difference is the source of the money funding the activity. 527's can be funded by massive donations by individuals, or through corporate funds or labor union treasury monies from member dues. These funds can not be used for express advocacy. IE activity must use PAC money, which is money contributed to a political action committee voluntarily by individuals adhering to federal contribution regulations and limits. The three organizations under discussion here all operate large PAC's, and all the money they are spending has been voluntarily contributed by individuals with the knowledge that it would be used for electioneering or contributions to candidates.
IE campaign do, however, have to remain independent of the candidate's campaign. They can not coordinate activities with the candidate. Communications between them are strictly forbidden, and entities like the Congressional campaign committees (i.e., the DCCC and the NRSC) even split their staffs before IE activities begin.
There is nothing nefarious about the work on behalf of Hillary Clinton done by AFSCME, AFT or EMILY's List. As I will show in a post later today, Obama has very recently become the beneficiary of similar activities by other organizations.
As discussed yesterday, Hillary Clinton has generally performed close to what was expected by looking at an average of pre-election polls, while Barack Obama has performed on average 8 points better than he polled. The places where Clinton has preformed best and the states that have given her the most important wins are those states where AFSCME, the AFT and EMILY's List were most active.
Sorting through which expenditures were for IA and which for NH was impossible, as EMILY's list didn't differentiate the states where they were spending until January. But the combined spending of the three organizations in IA and NH was just under $2.5 million. $1.4 million was spent on electronic media (radio and television). Another $80,000 went to web ads, and just under $100,000 was spent on various production costs, travel and polling.
Where the three organizations have probably been most effective, though, is through targeted mail and phone calls. Approximately 25-30 pieces of mail were sent to potential voters in IA and NH. From the designations on some of the expenditures, and from knowing that mail is often used for more specific targeting than electronic media, it appears that much and maybe all of the mail and phone calls went to women voters. The total spent was about $825,000, and it was complemented by another $55,000 in phone calls.
On election day there were reports from NH that the Clinton campaign leadership believed they would lose. Even they were surprised by their win which confounded pollsters and led to much speculation about what explained Clinton's 2 point victory. 57% of the Democratic primary voters in NH were women. That was apparently higher than the pollsters expected, and could very well be explained by the concerted effort to persuade and mobilize women voters conducted by AFSCME, the AFT and EMILY's List.
The model of some electronic media—mostly radio—and numerous mail pieces, usually six per state, followed up with phone calls has been used repeatedly by the three organizations. This set of activities was used in Nevada, where AFSCME and the AFT spent approximately $450,000 in media, mail and phones.
In the lead up to Super Tuesday, AFSCME and EMILY's List appear to have split responsibilities, with AFSCME working CA and EMILY's List handling CT and NJ. As seen in the polling results, Clinton performed much better than she polled on the way to wins in CA and NJ, although Obama did narrowly prevail in CT. The spending in the three states was just under $700,000. In the states other than MA and AR where AFSCME and EMILY's List didn't work, Obama mostly won by huge margins.
Since Super Tuesday, where spending wasn't as widely dispersed, the ability of AFSCME, the AFT and EMILY's List to win big margins of women voters for Clinton appears to have diminished. For the Potomac primaries, AFT and AFSCME spent $600,000; about $380,000 in the media markets of MD, VA and the DC media market shared by the District and both states, and about $220,000 in mail and phones in MD. Nevertheless, Obama posted big wins in both states, although his win was more modest in MD, where AFSCME dropped about six pieces of mail.
For Wisconsin, the AFT spent $200,000 on radio, but none of the three organizations ran any mail or phones. It is probably not a coincidence that WI was the first contest since Iowa where Obama won the majority of white voters, and split the women's vote 50-50.
Before Obama generated momentum, AFSCME, the AFT and EMILY's List appear to have been able to provide significant support to Hillary Clinton. They very well may have been the decisive factor in Clinton's surprising and campaign-saving win in New Hampshire. They probably played an important part in her solid wins in NJ and CA, and may have kept CT close. But as the campaign has progressed, the micro-targeting of women that these three groups appear to have done so effectively has not been enough to hold back the growing strength of Obama in all demographics.
In the last few weeks, AFSCME, the AFT and EMILY's List have spent heavily in Ohio. However, they now have competition in the IE game. Obama is now supported by the SEIU, and that may dramatically offset any advantage Clinton had been enjoying from the support of her three supporting organizations. We will look at what's going on in OH and TX later Monday.