The League of Conservation Voters is not spending its summer conserving cash.
More than 14 months ahead of the 2014 elections, the influential environmental group is spending $2 million to air television ads attacking four Republicans as antiscience for their positions on climate change. Just three years ago, that would have been more than one-third of LCV's total 2010 election budget. One of its targets, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., won't even be on the ballot until 2016.
The supercharged — and super early — advocacy is emblematic of pressure groups' thinking creatively about how they spend because there is now so much other spending to compete with. Voters are less likely to notice one more ad jsut before an election, with so much money and advertising saturating TV markets, and PACs get less return for their money. That's also true in the most literal sense: The growth of campaign spending right before the election caused TV advertising rates to double or even triple in some markets in 2012.
So the League of Conservation Voters is filling the airwaves during what was once the sleepy summer month of August.
"We're obviously not trying to defeat Ron Johnson right now," said Navin Nayak, LCV's senior vice president for campaigns. The group is also airing commercials in the districts of GOP Reps. Dan Benishek of Michigan, Mike Coffman of Colorado, and Rodney Davis of Illinois. "A lot of what we're trying to do, both on the election side and in this kind of campaign, is to demonstrate the political saliency of our issues.... We feel confident that when constituents find out their members are climate deniers, they'll take a hit at home."