For Adland, Party Lines a Little Blurry Ahead of Midterm

ANA and 4A's Court Allies on Both Sides of the Aisle

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Senator Jay Rockefeller's retirement means the chairmanship of Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will be up for grabs.
Senator Jay Rockefeller's retirement means the chairmanship of Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will be up for grabs.

The GOP may wrest control of the Senate from the Democrats in the mid-term elections and key lawmakers are retiring or are in danger of losing their seats. But the nation's big advertisers are keeping their cool amid the political turmoil, confident they will have the right allies in the next Congress.

Dan Jaffe, group executive VP-government relations for the Association of National Advertiser, said the possible takeover of the Senate by Republicans, a party that's considered more business-friendly than the Democrats, is not necessarily a boon for the advertising industry because the issues important to the marketing industry don't neatly cross party lines. And despite a couple of years of gridlock, the next Congress is expected to consider a number of issues important to advertisers, including tax inversion and deductibility, advertising of e-cigarettes and privacy concerns.

"We will be able to have our voice heard no matter what party wins," Mr. Jaffe said.

Advertising agencies are also watching the election. Dick O'Brien, chief lobbyist for the American Association of Advertising Agencies, said Republican control of the Senate, which would occur if the GOP wins six new seats, would make it easier for Congress to pass tax legislation that would cut corporate taxes -- but pay for it by curbing the deductibility of advertising expenses.

On the other hand, Mr. O'Brien said, a GOP-controlled Senate may finally approve legislation that would go after patent trolls. The House approved that legislation, but "the Democratic Senate leadership did not have the heart to do it," Mr. O'Brien said.

But, like Mr. Jaffe, Mr. O'Brien is confident his industry will be able to handle the political changes the new Congress will bring.

"No matter which way it goes we will have a game plan, it just will be a different game plan," he said.

That doesn't mean the advertisers and agencies aren't closely watching the mid-term elections and certain races.

One key race is the one Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., is waging against Republican challenger Tom Cotton.

Mr. Pryor "is someone we've worked closely with and he is someone we have been very supportive of," Mr. Jaffe said.

Mr. Pryor, considered one of the most vulnerable Senate incumbent, has been a proponent of self-regulation when it comes to privacy and advertising to children and has said his "door is always open" to advertising concerns.

Even before voters cast a single vote, congressional retirements mean key committees will have new chairmen in the next Congress.

The retirement of Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., means a big proponent of consumer privacy will no longer be in a position to worry the industry. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., whose views on issues important to advertisers are largely unknown, is likely to pick up the gavel.

But if Mr. Pryor manages to keep his seat he also has a shot at heading this powerful committee with jurisdiction over many issues important to advertisers.

The retirement of Ways and Means Chairman David Camp, R-Mich., who proposed ending the full tax deductibility of advertising expenses, may also seem like a relief to the industry.

But Mr. Camp's likely successor, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has disappointed advertisers by saying he'd keep that idea on the table when Congress makes another attempt to overhaul the tax code next year.

The retirement of Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, a proponent of tough food advertising regulations, as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is also viewed as a boon to the industry.

But he may be replaced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who "is certainly someone who prides himself on taking a highly liberal take on regulatory issues," Mr. Jaffe said.

Republicans are expected to keep control of the House after the Nov. 4 midterm elections. But there will be a lot of churning in that chamber anyway due to the GOP's self-imposed limit, adopted in 1994, on how long a Republican congressman can chair a committee.

If the Senate flips to the GOP, all Senate chairmanships will change.

That means Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, could take control of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax issues.

Mr. Hatch is sympathetic to business concerns and a strong defender of the First Amendment. But he's also a Mormon, a religion that shuns alcohol and tobacco -- and those industries are concerned the lawmaker may not be an ally.

A GOP win would also make Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the head of the HELP Committee.

"We know very little about him, but he's a very reasonable and balanced individual," Mr. Jaffe said.

Mr. O'Brien is also the treasurer of the Professionals in Advertising PAC, or Pro-Ad PAC, that was created in 1988 to boost the political clout of the industry.

But the PAC had less than $70,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of August and has contributed to just a handful of lawmakers this year.

Mr. O'Brien said "we're sort of husbanding our funds at the moment," but will soon gear up its spending to reward the industry's friends in Congress.

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