- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizonans have been inundated with more than 19,000 ads on broadcast television alone in the past 18 months as candidates and independent groups spent $12.4 million trying to sway voters, according to a new analysis of spending in the midterm elections.

The spending is a 422 percent change from the last midterm election cycle in 2010, when voters were peppered with just 5,400 ads.

The analysis released Wednesday by the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity showed the vast majority of the ads broadcast in Arizona between Jan. 1, 2013, and Sept. 8 were for the governor’s race, with $10.1 million going into effort.

Democrat Fred DuVal spent about $341,000, and the remaining $9.8 million was spent backing or attacking the six Republicans who were vying for the chance to appear on the general election ballot. The analysis covered state races and did not include U.S. congressional races.

The primary election was on Aug. 26, so some of the spending may be for general-election efforts.

Other races that saw significant spending included state attorney general, where incumbent Republican Tom Horne spent nearly $518,000 to run more than 1,100 ads, mainly attacking his GOP primary opponent, Mark Brnovich.

Brnovich didn’t run broadcast television ads, according to the analysis, but he benefited from outside groups that spent more than $563,000 attacking Horne.

The spending dwarfed ad buys in Arizona’s 2010 election cycle, when only $2.4 million was spent during a similar time frame. That year saw just three candidates in the GOP governor’s race - incumbent Gov. Jan Brewer, businessman Buz Mills and little-known moderate Matthew Jette. Other primary races were similarly low-budget.

“It’s related to the fact that we had a six-way governor’s race. But it’s more related to the fact that there’s an open seat,” said Bruce Merrill, a longtime pollster and senior research fellow at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy. “Before, we didn’t have an open seat for the governor’s race.”

The nationwide Center for Public Integrity analysis reviewed data about political advertising on national cable and broadcast television in state races in all of the country’s 210 media markets. The organization used research from Kantar Media/CMAG, which tracks political advertising and offers a widely accepted estimate of the money spent to air each spot.

Nationally, more than $282 million was spent on nearly 383,000 television ads, with $205 million of that spending coming from candidates and the rest from outside groups.

The figures only represent part of the money spent on political advertising. They do not include the money spent on radio, online and direct-mail advertising, as well television ads on local cable systems or the cost of producing the messages. That means the total cost of spending on political ads can be significantly higher.

Indeed, although the analysis showed Republican Christine Jones spending $2.8 million on broadcast television ads, she spent more than $5 million on her campaign. She also was on the receiving end of $383,000 worth of attack ads by outside groups that don’t have to disclose their donors.

An outside group that did disclose its donor spent more than $650,000 on ads attacking GOP front-runner and eventual winner Doug Ducey. Bob Parsons, founder of GoDaddy and Jones’ former employer, poured $2 million of his personal wealth into the race to help Jones. He said he did so to counter ads targeting Jones that he believed were coming from Ducey backers.

Merrill said the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the Citizens United case added to the spending.

“That’s just unleashed the floodgates on money coming in to these kinds of races,” Merrill said. Between the open governor’s seat and unlimited campaign spending by corporations and unions the high court allowed, “it’s just kind of like a perfect storm - there’s just a lot going on,” he said.

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