Last week Americans for Prosperity, a right-of-center group founded and funded by the Koch brothers, made waves when they announced a digital ad complimenting Democratic Senate incumbent Heidi Heitkamp for her vote in favor of bank deregulation.
Heitkamp and other left wing politicians typically use the Koch brothers as sort of boogey men to motivate their base, raise money, etc. So the Koch brothers praising a Democrat who typically vilifies them was odd, to say the least.
But how much of AFP’s motivation for their decision vis-à-vis Heitkamp was a desire to create a political man-bites-dog story for the press to lap up?
We may have a clue thanks to Facebook’s new transparency efforts for political advertising. You can search the political ads running on Facebook here. According to that database, the folks at AFP put just $100 behind their ad praising Heitkamp which began running on June 1:
Per that information, it seems the ad has received somewhere less than 5,000 impressions with about 89 percent of those happening in North Dakota.
That’s not much, as the meager dollar amount behind the ad attests. As a point of comparison, earlier this year Americans for Prosperity spent $450,000 on television advertising criticizing Heitkamp for her vote against tax reform according to a press release sent out by the group.
I reached out to Mike Fedorchak, the North Dakota state director for Americans for Prosperity, and asked him about this ad buy. “I believe it was Facebook and possibly Twitter,” he told me when I asked him about which digital platforms the ad was run on. “I think it was just kind of a small buy-in to get the word out.”
“I have no idea,” he responded when I asked how much of a buy the group put behind this. “I was not part of that process.”
It seems as though Americans for Prosperity has received a lot more visibility for their ad from the media’s coverage of it than they did from the ad running itself.
I should note that Facebook ads the group ran earlier this targeting Heitkamp over her vote against the Trump tax reform all had a similar budget, although I should note that there were eight of those campaigns. So far, as of the time of publication, there is only one for the ad praising Heitkamp showing up in Facebook’s database.
And to be clear, AFP could be running this digital ads on other platforms with more dollars behind the campaigns.