Outside Groups Fill Iowa Airwaves Ahead Of Caucus

By Nikoel Hytrek

January 31, 2020

In the final days before the Iowa caucuses, outside money is flowing in.

January has seen an uptick in spending from non-candidate campaigns on advertisements targeting different Democrats and causes before Iowans go to their caucus sites.

A well-known one is Unite the Country, a Super PAC supporting Joe Biden. According to Open Secrets, the group has spent over $5.5 million for Biden. On KCCI, the group bought spots from January 27 to the caucuses and spent $91,630.

One of their most recent ads, “Consequences,” highlights Biden’s experience with foreign policy and how Trump, without any experience, has wreaked havoc with his foreign policy.

The group’s messages tend to follow that line of reasoning: that Biden is a steady candidate who can calm the country after four years of Trump. All of the messages are positive for Biden; the group hasn’t run any attack ads against Republicans or other Democratic candidates.

Unite the Country is set to out-spend the Biden campaign on ads in Iowa, and has been active since late October of last year.

Not all of the groups are supporting a candidate. Another that’s gotten a lot of attention is Club for Growth, a conservative group.

They have set their sights on Sen. Bernie Sanders specifically. In a recent ad, “46,” the group asserts Sanders is too extreme for the presidency because of his policies and his “extreme age,” which would be 79 at the time of his inauguration in 2021.

It also compares Sanders to Franklin Roosevelt, and has the line, “Bernie’s plan gives government health insurance to everyone,” leading some to speculate that the real goal of this ad is to boost Sanders’ standing among Democrats.

Club for Growth has spent $22,355 on KCCI for the 30-second spots to run from January 27th to caucus night.

Iowans may have also seen advertisements from the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) PAC, a group running anti-Trump and anti-Sanders ads. DMFI is a Democratic group focused on electing Democrats with policies supporting Israel.

The PAC spent $105,275 on 82 KCCI spots for 30-second ads to run from January 27th to caucus night.

The ad, called “Electable,” shows voters sharing their doubts about Sanders’ health and his ability to beat Trump in the general election, especially in states like Iowa, Pennsylvania and Michigan, swing states that went for Trump to guarantee his electoral college win.

There are also some strange ads not necessarily connected to the election.

Opposing Biden, Florida Sen. Rick Scott bought a 30-second ad in Iowa mischaracterizing Biden’s efforts on behalf of the U.S. and the international community to get a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor fired. The ad has since been removed from YouTube, but here’s a snippet from Scott’s appearance on Fox News.

Most analysts think this ad is Scott’s attempt to put his name in front of Iowans for a possible 2024 presidential run.

Outside of TV, different PACs have also been making appearances on radio and in online spaces.

Two PACS supporting Andrew Yang, MATH PAC and Humanity Forward Fund, are entirely separate from the campaign, but each has spent thousands on Yang’s behalf.

According to OpenSecrets, as of today, MATH PAC has spent $250,970 and Humanity Forward Fund has spent $97,906.

This cycle, most Democrats have sworn off accepting the support of Super PACs because the groups don’t have limits on how much they can spend and raise.


by Nikoel Hytrek
Posted 1/31/20

  • Nikoel Hytrek

    Nikoel Hytrek is Iowa Starting Line’s longest-serving reporter. She covers LGBTQ issues, abortion rights and all topics of interest to Iowans. Her biggest goal is to help connect the dots between policy and people’s real lives. If you have story ideas or tips, send them over to [email protected].



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