Flow of political money may continue in Massachusetts

U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) speaks on stage during the final day of the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 6, 2012 in Charlotte, N.C. With Kerry on the short list to become Secretary of State, Massachusetts could be in line for its third U.S. Senate election in just more than two years. It's meant big bucks spent in advertising.

Lately, political advertising in Massachusetts is a gift that keeps on giving.

President Obama is reportedly tapping U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) to take over State Department from Hillary Clinton.  That means a special election would be held to fill Kerry’s seat not long after the most expensive U.S. Senate race in history wrapped up in Boston.

“A primary and then a general election are going to be like a stimulus package for the media,” says Tobe Berkovitz, a former Democratic media strategist who now teaches advertising at Boston University. “Money is going to be pouring in all of a sudden to stations that weren’t expecting it. Because it’s such a short track in terms of when the primary and when the general is, the money comes in fast and furious.”

What’s unusual is that this race would be coming on the heels of two other Senate races with huge spending. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Massachusetts candidates raised $40,087,389 in the 2010 special election to replace Ted Kennedy.

Republican Scott Brown won that race. He lost reelection this year. But not before he and his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Warren, spent $76,069,983.

They made history by running the most expensive Senate race ever. Not only did it boost the bottom lines of Boston TV and radio stations that ran loads of advertising, it also filled the pocketbooks of a host of lawyers and political consultants. This week, those bank accounts may be getting an additional, unexpected gift squarely in the political offseason.

“This’ll be three Christmases in the space of about six months,” says Tufts University political scientist Jeff Berry referring to the hotly contest primary and general elections in the U.S. Senate race that concluded in November. “This is an added bonus for whichever firms are lucky enough to get the advertising and consulting contracts.”

And the political spending spree may not end with a special election to fill John Kerry’s vacant seat. BU professor Tobe Berkovitz says this spending could have long tail, say, if winner were one of the current U.S. Representatives from Massachusetts who are considering running.

“If one of the Congresspeople is elected to the Senate,” Berkovitz says, “then all of a sudden you have an open congressional seat. Who knows, this could end up being a giant Ponzi scheme with race after race, dollar after dollar.”

And that would likely be just fine for any advertising executives at Boston television stations.

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