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Super PAC supporting Grossman downshifts

Group suddenly cancels TV ads

BY: Paul McMorrow

The super PAC that poured $400,000 into television ads boosting gubernatorial hopeful Steve Grossman abruptly pulled the plug on dozens of ad buys that were set to air this past weekend. The ad blitz by the Mass Forward Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee attacked Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Martha Coakley, but failed to move Grossman’s polling numbers at all. New disclosures filed with Massachusetts campaign finance regulators indicate that the Mass Forward PAC may be running short on cash.

Federal Communications Commission regulations require television broadcasters to post contracts for political advertising on the FCC’s website. The broadcast advertising disclosures can reveal political maneuvering long before the moves are reported in campaign finance disclosures. For instance, the FCC disclosures show Republican gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Baker has reserved $567,000 in ad time between late September and Election Day; this spending wouldn’t show up in Baker’s state campaign finance reports until his campaign cuts a check to pay for the ad spots.

In the case of the Mass Forward PAC, the FCC disclosures show a sudden retrenchment.

The Mass Forward PAC was formed to aid the gubernatorial campaign of Grossman, the current state treasurer. Late last month, the PAC released an ad praising Grossman’s stance on gun control, and criticizing Coakley, the state’s attorney general. Mass Forward spent $400,000 on the ad campaign, according to disclosures filed with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Documents local broadcasters filed with the FCC, however, show Mass Forward hit the brakes on its ad offensive late last week. Mass Forward canceled at least two dozen ad spots, worth tens of thousands of dollars, that were set to air on WBZ and WCVB this past weekend. The cancelation appears to have come suddenly. The WCVB filing shows that, the day before Mass Forward pulled the plug, the PAC had booked nearly $19,000 in ad spots for last weekend; Mass Forward wound up airing just three pro-Grossman spots over the weekend.

A spokesman for Mass Forward could not be reached immediately.

Super PACs like Mass Forward may legally raise and spend unlimited sums of money, as long as they don’t coordinate their activities with traditional political campaigns. A recent campaign finance disclosure showed Grossman’s mother, Shirley, contributed $100,000 to Mass Forward.

Polling data show the massive television offensive by Mass Forward, and by the Grossman campaign, failed to move the needle in the Democratic primary. FCC disclosures show Grossman’s campaign has spent more than $480,000 on a television ad campaign that has overlapped with Mass Forward’s $400,000 effort. The week before the ads began running, the Boston Globe’s weekly tracking poll had Grossman trailing Coakley by 28 points among Democratic primary voters; in the Globe poll released Thursday evening, Grossman’s deficit in the primary stood at 27 points.

The Globe polling data also show nearly $900,000 in ad spending had failed to drive down Coakley’s favorability ratings, or make any dent in the 34 percent of state voters who say they’ve never heard of Grossman.

The Legislature recently subjected super PACs like Mass Forward to sweeping new campaign finance reporting requirements. The super PACs must now disclose all fundraising activity within seven days of making an expenditure. Disclosures Mass Forward has filed with state campaign finance regulators show that, as of last week, Mass Forward had spent nearly all money it had raised to date. The disclosures show that, as of August 1, Mass Forward had raised $475,530, and spent $474,934.
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