Much More of the Same: Television Advertising Pre- and Post-BCRA

This chapter first appeared in The Election After Reform:  Money, Politics, and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, edited by Michael J. Malbin (Lanham, Md.:  Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), pp. 139-162. In “Much More of the Same:  Television Advertising Pre- and Post-BCRA,” Franz et al. examine the impact of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) on campaign advertising.

After BCRA was passed, signed into law by former President Bush, and upheld by the Supreme Court, many analysts predicted that the shape and volume of television advertising would look drastically different in a post-BCRA world.  This chapter examines that notion and concludes that analysts’ predictions were drastically off the mark. In general, this study highlights three major points:  (1) the most important independent variable in almost every major model of political advertising remains the competitiveness of the race, despite changes prescribed by BCRA; (2) the “stand by your ad” provision of BCRA had negligible effects on the tone of advertising; and (3) interest groups and soft money continued to play a major role, albeit in different forms. Accordingly, the authors show that advertising in post-BCRA America is largely the same as in pre-BCRA America.