Ad financiers: Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and Noble Energy
Oil and gas interests are planning ahead, even though a ballot initiative isn’t likely to be finalized until summer.
A pro-fracking issue group has reserved 323 TV ad spots at a cost of more than $299,000 for the nine weeks leading up to the November election – and that’s at just one Denver station.
Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence is an issue committee formed in January “to oppose anti-fracking ballot measures and to support pro-fracking ballot measures,” said Jon Haubert, spokesman for Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development, a pro-fracking nonprofit backed by the oil-and-gas industry.
At least two ballot initiatives are being proposed that would allow communities to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. No pro-fracking initiatives have been formally organized, but Haubert didn’t rule out the possibility.
In an order placed on Feb. 11, a California company, Sadler Strategic Media, scheduled the ads to run in September, October and early November on KMGH Channel 7.The ad buy includes spots on news programs as well as popular ABC prime-time shows such as “Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Nashville.”
The company has also sought information about ad rates from KUSA Channel 9, according to a document filed with the Federal Communication Commission. Typically, campaigns buy time on most network affiliates in major markets such as Denver.
Stations in the top 50 television markets are required to report information about political ad buys to the FCC. That means Denver stations must file, but stations in Colorado Springs and Grand Junction don’t have to. They keep paper files available for inspection at their stations.
It could be early August before signatures are due to qualify initiatives — either pro- or anti-fracking — for the November ballot.
Haubert said the industry is “preparing in case they need to run advertising.”
“It seems that elections are year-round these days.”
Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Noble Energy created the nonprofit Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development after several communities approved fracking bans in the November 2013 elections.
On Sunday, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission approved new rules targeting methane and other chemicals released in oil and gas exploration. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper recommended the rule changes with support from Anadarko, Noble and some other companies.
Still, fracking remains highly controversial and industry is prepping to convince Colorado voters to protect its ability to drill throughout the state.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association is suing some communities over their fracking prohibitions, and Hickenlooper has said property rights guarantees in the state Constitution should override such bans. The state has signed on as a plaintiff in some of the lawsuits.
Coloradans can expect a deluge of political ads this fall because of a U.S. Senate race and one of the hottest congressional races in the country in the state’s 6th District, where GOP incumbent Mike Coffman is facing Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff. In 2010, outside groups spent some $30 million on Colorado’s U.S. Senate race, much of it on TV advertising.
Katy Atkinson, a Republican political consultant, said reserving ad time now makes sense, even if it’s unclear whether industry will be on the offense or defense of a ballot issue.
“It is always smart in a ballot issue to buy early when you can,” she said.
Atkinson recalled a ballot issue she worked on that couldn’t place an order until they had money to go on TV. By that time, she said, “there was nothing available. We had to buy the Golf Channel.”
Advocates of an initiative to allow local governments to limit oil and gas development told The Colorado Independent that they plan a grassroots campaign heavy on social media and door-to-door work.
Some ballot campaigns have succeeded by spending little on TV ads. In 2012, the successful campaign to approve medical marijuana spent about $170,000 on 154 ads in the Denver market. Last year, backers of a tax increase for schools spent more than $11 million total, including millions on TV ads. Voters overwhelmingly rejected that initiative.Pro-fracking group books at least $299K in TV ads before November election