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TV ad digest: Kansas abortion amendment draws millions in advertising


Welcome to your daily campaigns deep dive, where we explore the inner workings of the midterm races, fundraising, staffing and advertising.

While Democrats have dominated the airwaves on abortion issues nationally, a more evenly matched ad campaign is brewing in Kansas, ahead of an August ballot measure vote about whether the state constitution includes the right to abortion.

In 2019, the Kansas state Supreme Court decision that protected the right to “bodily autonomy,” which included abortion access, and prohibited Kansas lawmakers from passing laws that restricted that right. The state still has a limit on abortions past 22 weeks.

Last January, state Republicans voted to put an abortion amendment, known as “Value Them Both,” on the primary ballot that would either give the state Legislature power to restrict or outlaw the procedure — a “yes” vote — or to maintain the current law — a “no” vote. However, the amendment would not automatically ban abortion if passed.

Confused? So are many voters. That hasn’t stopped them from signing up to vote in droves as advocacy groups pump millions into broadcast ads taking a number of different approaches to the issue ahead of the Aug. 2 vote.

Reproductive rights organization Kansans for Constitutional Freedom has spent big — nearly $900,000 in the last month alone, per AdImpact — to urge voters to vote “no” on the amendment. Multiple ads from the group call the ballot measure “confusing” and say it “goes too far,” while others include women sharing stories about their opposing views on the procedure but common support for broader abortion access.

“They call it a constitutional amendment. The truth? It’s a strict government mandate designed to interfere with private medical decisions,” the narrator says in one ad from last month. “Say no to more government control, vote no on changing the constitution.”

Organizations that want voters to say “yes” have also put out ads with extreme exaggerations about what current Kansas law allows. One ad from the Christian group Kansas Family Voice claims “Joe Biden and liberal justices” want to mandate abortion with no restrictions, and says voting “yes” on the amendment allows representatives to end “painful late-term abortion,” which was already restricted by Kansas state law. The ad started airing Wednesday.

Another “yes” vote advocate, Value Them Both, has released several spots over the past month calling the 2019 state Supreme Court decision “radical” and claiming Kansas is an “abortion haven” or “destination.” One video compares Kansas to California, saying their state “now allows painful, dismemberment abortions,” referring to dilation and evacuation procedures that Republican state legislators attempted to ban in 2015. The group has spent more than $690,000 on advertising in the past month, per AdImpact.

FIVE MORE ADS TO WATCH THIS WEEK

A new spot for Florida Senate candidate Val Demings addresses Republican Sen. Marco Rubio directly, criticizing his Senate attendance records in comparison to her “27 year” track record as Orlando police chief. “When Florida needs you, you just don’t show up,” she says. “It’s simple — you don’t show up for work, you lose your job.” Florida’s primary is Aug. 23.

Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman released an ad last week against Republican candidate Mehmet Oz. While Fetterman got involved in politics to improve his town, Oz is “all about North Jersey,” he says in the spot. “He says he’ll fight for working people. OK?” Fetterman says sarcastically, words juxtaposed over Oz and his Hollywood sidewalk star. “Hey, Doc Hollywood, save your money. Pennsylvania is not for sale.”

A One Georgia PAC ad features a former deputy sheriff “Dennis” who says the permitless carry law Gov. Brian Kemp signed in April “makes it easier for criminals” to carry firearms in public spaces. “Brian Kemp may talk tough, but he makes us less safe, because the last place we want more criminals with guns is here.” The PAC backed Republican gubernatorial David Perdue earlier this year.

Crypto PAC Web3Forward released two new ads this week in favor of House candidates Glenn Ivey of Maryland and Patrick Branco of Hawaii. Ivey’s ad plays up his connections to former President Barack Obama and want for gun control, while Branco’s video highlighted his work in the state House on issues like health care access and affordable housing.

TOP CANDIDATE SPENDING (7/6/22-7/13/22, per AdImpact): 

  • Shapiro for PA Governor: $1,396,633
  • Demings for FL Senate: $1,322,298
  • Warnock for GA Senate: $1,207,990
  • Pritzker for IL Governor: $1,150,843
  • Robson for AZ Governor: $1,145,017

TOP COMMITTEES/OUTSIDE GROUPS/SUPER PAC SPENDING (7/6/22-7/13/22, per AdImpact):

  • Yes on 27 (CA Gaming Issue): $4,142,706
  • Computer and Communications Industry Association PAC (Internet Regulation Issue): $3,863,338
  • One Nation (GA Senate, NH Senate, NV Senate, WI Senate, AZ Senate): $3,352,248
  • United Democracy Project (MD-04, MI-13, MI-11): $2,957,319
  • Coalition for Safe Responsible Gaming (CA Gaming Issue): $2,341,861

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