Rep. Adam Kinzinger targeted media buys in 2018

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US House Office of Photography

Adam Kinzinger's most recent official photograph.

Republican representative Adam Kinzinger poured over one-fourth of his $2.5 million-plus campaign budget into media production and buys during the 2017-2018 election cycle.  

Kinzinger, who is currently serving his fifth term in the U.S. House of Representatives for Illinois’ 16th district, paid Honold Communications over $650,000 from 2017 to 2018. Kinzinger directed $340,000 into media production and approximately $320,000 into media buys, marking his largest expenditure during the last election cycle. 

However, since his first congressional campaign during the 2009-2010 election cycle, Kinzinger has traditionally spent the most money on media production and buys, which is purchased airtime that can be used to run political advertisements. 

Although campaign spending can reach well into the millions, at least in recent federal election cycles, the Federal Election Committee restricts the type and amount of expenditures candidates can make during each cycle. The FEC says candidates don’t have a limit on independent expenditures, meaning as long as their funds are being spent on things directly connected with winning an election or defeating another candidate, they can pour as much money they want into each election cycle.   

Kinzinger broke into the top-200 among highest-spending House candidates during the 2017-2018 cycle –– he ranked 194th out of nearly 3,300 total candidates –– and his high-dollar media expenditures aren’t uncommon in modern politics. 

According to GroupM, the world’s largest media and advertising investment group, political media spending, including presidential campaigns, is projected to increase by about 13.8 percent, rising from $8.7 billion in 2018 to approximately $9.9 billion in 2020.  

In 2014, total spending of this kind hovered just above $4 billion. But in 2016, the amount of dollars in advertising and media rose about $2 billion. 

Kinzinger’s spending since his first Congressional campaign in 2009 shows to the rapid increase in media spending among candidates in the U.S. 

During the ’09-’10 election cycle, Kinzinger allocated about $560,000 into media and ads, not including about $10,000 spent on “creative fees;” and he spent nearly $580,000 in 2011 and 2012. Between the 2011-2012 and 2017-2018 cycles, Kinzinger’s total media spending increased by about 13 percent. 

Kinzinger has been using Honold Communications since 2013, originally spending $35,350 on video production. During the 2015-2016 election cycle he paid the Washington D.C.-based company $49,725 for video production again. However, in 2017 and ’18, Kinzinger increased disbursements to Honold by over $600,000, reportedly spending those funds on content production and for buying media space such as television airtime and online advertisements. 

Kinzinger’s third largest expenditure during the 2017-2018 cycle was in fundraising consulting. His campaign recorded 53 disbursements totaling $312,764.73. Of that total, Kinzinger paid Red River Co. LLC $207,552.03 and The Charles Group LLC $69,193.92 for consulting services. The campaign also invested $35,368.78 in Lisa Wagner and Company Inc. and $650 to Gula Graham. 

Kinzinger For Congress contributed $228,500 to organizations including state and local committees as well as non-affiliates. Since some disbursements were allocated to non-affiliates, they’re not subject to certain limitations set forth by the FEC. Kinzinger contributed $144,000 to the Illinois Republican Party, which was documented as a non-affiliate, and $44,275 total to various state and local campaigns. 

Prior to the 2017-2018 cycle, Kinzinger used various media vendors for communication consulting, production and buys. From 2009 to 2013, Kinzinger For Congress contracted Wilson Grand Communications based out of Virginia, formerly known as Wilson Grand Strategies. However, In May 2013 Kinzinger recorded $4,850 and $9,700 reimbursements from Wilson Grand, and in November 2013 the campaign recorded its first disbursement to Honold Communications for approximately $15,000. Following the reimbursements, Kinzinger For Congress never used Wilson Grand’s vendor services again. 

Kinzinger paid nearly $230,000 to a company called Mentzer Media Services Inc. for media buys. Mentzer Media Services is a Maryland-based firm that designs and places advertisements for majorly right-wing, conservative organizations and political action committees. In 2018, the media vendor reported over $25 million in payments. Kinzinger hasn’t used Mentzer Media Services since 2014. 

Kinzinger for Congress campaign officials couldn’t be reached for comment. 

During the 2017-2018 election cycle, Kinzinger outspent his Democratic opponent, Sara Dady, by over $2.1 million. And, according to FiveThirtyEight, there’s been a significant correlation between winning congressional elections and the amount of money spent. 

During the 2018 House elections, Democrats outspent Republicans by about $300 million and won a party-majority in the House of Representatives. But according to a 2017 study conducted by Gregory J. Martin and Zachary Peskowitz, political advertising and media expenditures found there’s a difference in the way firms tasked with media consulting and productions do business. The study revealed that “firms working for Republicans charge higher prices, exert less effort, and induce less responsiveness in their clients’ advertising expenditures to electoral circumstances than do their Democratic counterparts.”

About $200,000 of Kinzinger’s campaign allocations were through credit cards including nearly $12,000 to First State Bank in fees, payments to American Airlines and Uber of about $1,000 for travel, upwards of $2,600 at a time to himself for “salary.” While some of these uncategorized costs yield transparent descriptions, others, particularly payments made to big banks have “see memo entry” written in the memo line on the Schedule B FEC form 3. 

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