For the last two years, New Mexican voters have been bombarded with the sights and sounds of the 2008 election. And the companies responsible for all the election collateral have been enjoying the influx of cash.
Conservative talk radio station KKOB-AM in Albuquerque, for example, reports that ad revenue for October set a record for the station.
But what happens for local businesses now that the campaign cash cow has been milked dry?
“There will be a void that has to be backfilled,” KKOB Sales Manager Matt Woodcock says diplomatically, noting that 25 percent of his station’s ad revenue over the last few months has been campaign related.
“We did a large six-figure number for the month of October in political advertising. That obviously will not be back for four more years,” he says.
SFR contacted Woodcock the day before the election, at which time he said some of the ad revenue would go toward the newsroom to provide “wall-to-wall coverage on election night” and to have a fleet of reporters at various campaign headquarters.
Here in Santa Fe, Hutton Broadcasting says it plans to save its election-related cash for months down the line.
Co-Owner Scott Hutton says the company is just breaking even right now and, as a new company, it has to make the most of the surplus.
“In the last few weeks, we just got slammed [with business],” Hutton says, declining to give sales figures. “But we planned on this falloff in advertising, and now we’re planning for February, March and thereafter.” Hutton Broadcasting owns six radio stations locally, including KBAC 98.1 FM.
George Gonzales, founder of Que Suave Radio in Santa Fe, is confident his radio station will remain unaffected in the months after the election. “We’re just gonna work hard,” he says. “Period. It’s very simple.”
Nevertheless, Albuquerque-based Research & Polling, Inc. President Brian Sanderoff says the local businesses that have been most impacted by the campaigns should be worried.
Sanderoff, whose company provides market and public-opinion research, has been in the national and international spotlight lately, offering his opinions to the New York Times, BBC and NPR on New Mexico’s political climate. He says the future for campaign-dollar beneficiaries is not bright.
“The campaigns have spent unprecedented dollars this election cycle,” Sanderoff says, adding that the campaign money is only delaying an inevitable downturn for media outlets. The most obvious evidence of this, he adds, is the lack of car dealership commercials on television.
“We’ve seen a large decrease in car dealer ads,” he says, “and they’re the bread and butter for these stations. They’re hurting because the economy’s slowing and people are more cautious about buying new cars.”
Sanderoff adds that some New Mexico companies have been shielded from the downturn, not simply because of the campaign season but because of the Land of Enchantment’s status as a hotly contested state.
“We’re very fortunate to be a battleground state,” he says, adding that he has seen the presidential campaigns bring in individuals from Texas and California to volunteer, and their presence helps the local economy.
“That helps New Mexico because they’re out there spending money…they have to eat and wash their clothes, go to movies when they get a chance,” he says, adding that New Mexico would not receive nearly as much out-of-state cash if the state was a reliably Republican or Democratic stronghold.
Sanderoff laughs when asked if Research & Polling, Inc. is raking it in due to the election cycle. “Quite frankly, we’re not,” he says, noting that most of his money comes from customer satisfaction surveys and patient surveys at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque. His media appearances have not translated into dollars yet. “I could spend my whole day talking to media people like you and I’d lose my butt,” he says.
John King is another local businessman who isn’t making money from the election. He is the president of local printing company Paper Tiger and says, despite controlling the market share of printing work in town, the campaign-related jobs all go to Albuquerque and out of state.
“I’ll probably get in trouble over saying this, but all the candidates say they support small businesses, and all the printing is done by big union print shops,” King says.
He adds that Santa Fe has a particular problem because its high living wage law is a disincentive to unionizing. “We take care of our employees,” he says, noting that no full-time employees make less than $15 an hour. “Why do I need to worry about [unionizing]?”
Nancy Denker is the owner and president of Focus Ink, a union company and one of the largest producers of campaign-related print advertising in the state. Focus Ink makes yard signs, T-shirts and flyers. Denker says approximately 75 candidates have used her company’s services, and this past April was the most lucrative month on record in Focus Ink’s 20 years of business. (She declined to give exact figures.)
Denker estimates political campaigns have constituted half of Focus Ink’s revenues during this election cycle, and she attributes most of it to Democrats who want to use union companies.
2nd Judicial District Attorney Kari Brandenburg has spent the most money at Focus Ink, although state Senate candidate Peter Wirth, US congressional candidate for District 3 Ben Ray Luján, the Democratic National Convention and US Senate candidate Tom Udall also have used Denker’s services.
Some candidates acknowledge they would prefer to use union labor and that Albuquerque is the closest place to find it.
“It’s important to lead by example,” Brian Egolf, who ran unopposed for the state representative seat in District 47, says. “If I’m going to be advocating on behalf of the labor union, it’s important that I support them,” he adds.
Wirth, who also ran unopposed for the Senate District 25 seat, echoes Egolf’s sentiments. “I’ve always tried to use union printers,” Wirth tells SFR. “It’s important to, whenever possible, recognize the work folks are doing as part of an organized union and to support them.”
There is a glaring omission to Denker’s roster of clients—Republicans. She calls her print shop a “Democratic stronghold” and has even—subtly—turned down business for Republican candidates.
“I might overprice a job or tell them it would take too much time,” she says, adding, “I don’t hide my beliefs. Republicans tend to have a lot more money but I’ve got to do what my conscience dictates. It would be very hard for me to put a Republican in office.”