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By Andy Fixmer
LOS ANGELES - Broadcasters are attracting record political advertising from the Republican presidential primaries, a super-PAC-driven windfall for television stations that promises to grow even larger in the general election.
The biggest winner may be Lin TV Corp. The Providence-based owner of 17 stations, including WPRI-TV CBS 12, in the 12 closely divided swing states identified by Gallup Inc. may see revenue rise 12 percent to a record $457 million this year. Hearst Corp. has 12 battleground-state outlets and CBS Corp. has 10.
The spending is fueled by court rulings including the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which abolished limits on political outlays by unions and corporations. By the Nov. 6 election, campaigns will have spent $2.6 billion, with 85 percent going to local TV, Anthony DiClemente, a Barclays Capital analyst in New York, estimated in a Jan. 31 report.
“TV stations will be the biggest beneficiary,” DiClemente said in an interview. “It’s a heated political environment and the relaxation of campaign finance laws is driving it all.”
Candidates and their super political action committees spent about $40 million combined on ads in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, said Brad Adgate, research director at New York-based ad buyer Horizon Media Inc. In South Carolina, Republicans spent $13 million, compared with $7 million in 2008, DiClemente said.
Competition for the Republican nomination is keeping the money flowing. Newt Gingrich, who won the South Carolina primary on Jan. 21, has received $10 million from billionaire Sheldon Adelson, chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corp., and his wife. That was after super-PACs allied with Mitt Romney, the leader in national polls, ran negative ads in Iowa that hurt Gingrich’s support.
Even bigger outlays forecast for the general election led DiClemente to project a 15 percent rise in campaign-ad spending from 2010’s regional contests and a 45 percent increase from the 2008 presidential year.
The Democratic Party will nominate President Barack Obama for a second four-year term at its convention in Charlotte, N.C., starting Sept. 3. The campaign of the president, who opposed the Citizens United decision, asked supporters to donate to a Democratic super-PAC this week.