Super PACs on Denver Spending Spree

Free Press Criticizes TV Stations for Insufficient Fact-Checking of Ad Claims

The five Super PACs spending the most money on local TV political spots in Denver, the site of the first presidential debate on Wednesday (Oct. 3) have spent $6.5 million on advertising on a total of 4,954 ads on the four major broadcast affiliates since Aug. 2.

That is according to a new report from Free Press. If the "four major affiliates" and "Aug. 2" date seem familiar, that is because the data was gleaned from the online political files the four top affiliates in the top 50 markets had to start sending to the FCC Aug. 2 to put in its national database. The data was collected by Colorado University students pressed into service to go through the files, either online or at the stations.

All totaled, campaigns, Super PACs and other groups have bought a total of 26,000 ads on those affiliates in Denver since Aug. 2.

Free Press claims the Super PAC ads contained misinformation that the TV stations did not sufficiently vet.

Free Press claims the Super PAC ads contained misinformation that the TV stations did not sufficiently vet. "Denver stations devoted only 10 minutes and 45 seconds to local reporting on ads from these five prominent groups," said Free Press. "Meanwhile, they aired 29 hours of ads from these groups."

While TV stations cannot reject ads from federal candidates or campaigns, they can reject ads from "non-aligned" (emphasis is Free Press') groups if they contain misleading content, Free Press points out. The group also said stations continued to air ads even after news departments had reported on misleading claims.

But even while saying broadcasters in Denver did not do enough, they got props for doing more than other markets, in Free Press' view.

"Denver stations, and especially KCNC and KUSA, have fact-checked more political ads than stations in the other battleground markets surveyed by Free Press. Over the past two months, these two Denver stations have also fact-checked political ads from candidate campaigns not profiled in this report."

The National Association of Broadcasters had no comment on the report.