TV Station Owners Report Unexpected Flood of Money From Iran Deal Opponents

There is an “awful lot of issue advertising” thanks to opponents of the Iran nuclear deal, the Sinclair Broadcast Group told investors.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (2nd L) shakes hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry next to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (far L) and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (far R) after a statement on early November 24, 2013 in Geneva. World powers on November 24 agreed a landmark deal with Iran halting parts of its nuclear programme in what US President Barack Obama called "an important first step". According to details of the accord agreed in Geneva provided by the White House, Iran has committed to halt uranium enrichment above purities of five percent. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI        (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo: Fabrice Cofrini/AFP/Getty Images

Television station owners have been salivating over the expected tidal wave of campaign advertisement spending for the election next year.

But media companies don’t have to wait until 2016 for the political cash to materialize. Television station owners just told their investors that they are seeing an unexpected flood of cash from opponents of the nuclear accord with Iran, who are spending tens of millions of dollars on commercials designed to shift the congressional debate against the deal.

Sinclair Broadcast Group, a company that owns stations from Florida to Washington state, was excited to report on an investor call last month that although markets were “slightly down” in the last quarter, there is an “awful lot of issue advertising” coming into the network, citing the Iran deal.

Brian Lawlor, the vice president of E.W. Scripps Company, another firm that owns a national network of local television stations, likewise bragged on a recent investor call that political money was flowing early in part because of the Iran deal. “We have seen an early bump on some Iran nuclear deal spending, which has been nice in some of our markets,” said Lawlor.

The P5+1 deal with Iran lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for strict inspections of, and limitations on, Iran’s nuclear industry. Congress is set to vote this month on a resolution that deal opponents hope will block it from going forward.

Opponents of the deal are easily outspending supporters, using nonprofits that do not disclose donor identities, to pump well over $40 million into television commercials urging citizens to call their senators to oppose the agreement. Many of the advertising efforts are led by affiliates of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a lobbying group aligned with the interests of the Israeli government. As we’ve reported, a new group called the American Security Initiative, which is led by a Saudi Arabian lobbyist, is also spending money on television ads.

However, spending to bend public opinion and build congressional opposition to the deal appears to be failing. Democrats appear certain to have enough votes to sustain a presidential veto of the resolution, and may be able to sustain a filibuster blocking it from coming to a Senate vote in the first place.

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