In the three months leading up to the election, conservative super PACs spent more than $4 million on advertising in the Galesburg television market.
But that money had almost no impact on local voters.
In four national and statewide races, State Rep. Don Moffitt was the only republican to carry Knox County. He won 65 percent of the vote.
TKS reviewed more than 900 advertising contracts at the seven major-network affiliates, based in Peoria and the Quad Cities, which broadcast in Galesburg.
Among those stations, republican super PACs American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS — both co-founded by former White House strategist Karl Rove — doled out a combined $2.6 million, leading all ad-buyers in the 12 weeks before the election.
In comparison, pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA spent $904,000 in the Galesburg television market over the same period.
“These ads are an important way to persuade voters — and this election was big due to regulatory changes,” Kathy Kiely of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit which helped spearhead changes in television advertising disclosure, said.
Three years ago, the Supreme Court made the landmark decision that came to be known as “Citizens United,” which allowed unlimited campaign contributions by unions, corporations and special interest groups, as long as they are unaffiliated with a candidate’s campaign.
The ruling created an influx of ad revenue for television stations, according to Tony Wilkins, sales manager at the Quad-Cities Fox-affiliate KLJB.
“We definitely saw an increase in political ad spending this election cycle,” he said.
Super PACs spent a combined $354.6 million in the final three months of campaign season, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
“The big story this election was money moving to the dark side. And I think a lot of the biggest spenders did quite poorly. If you make a big bet on Obama’s defeat and he wins, your return was poor,” Kiely said.
That may have been because many voters had already made up their minds. Only 6 percent of Americans considered themselves “swing voters,” according to a July poll by The Washington Post ABC News.
Still, political ad spending is important to follow, said Travis Ridout, a director at the Wesleyan Media Project, a nonpartisan group that analyzes television political advertising.
“It’s an attempt by someone — whether a candidate or a party or an interest group — to influence who gets elected to office, which has a major impact on the sorts of policies we have in this country,” he said.