Rep. Vern Buchanan plans to spend $4 million on TV campaign ads

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan's campaign has reserved $4 million in television advertising to sell local voters on his re-election.

The ad buy was announced Wednesday, a little more than a month after Buchanan's campaign revealed that a poll taken in March showed him with a 22-percentage-point lead over presumptive Democratic challenger Keith Fitzgerald, and his pollster told supporters that "Buchanan's brand is strong."

The ads will appear on over-the-air stations in Tampa Bay and Sarasota, as well as on cable television networks, starting Aug. 1 and running through Nov. 5. There will be a two-week hiatus in late August, around the time the Republican National Convention will be under way in Tampa, according to a memo from Buchanan's media consultant.

Sally Tibbetts, spokesman for Buchanan's campaign, said the big buy will help Buchanan play both offense and defense in a campaign that coincides with legal and political questions about Buchanan's ethics and a vigorous challenge by Fitzgerald.

"In Florida's crowded TV market, we want to make sure we have the ability to talk about Vern's positive agenda for economic growth and job creation," Tibbetts said in a statement.

"We will have the resources necessary to hold Fitzgerald and Nancy Pelosi accountable for their ugly smear campaign."

Fitzgerald's campaign manager said Buchanan's ad buy signals how desperate the congressman is as he tries for a fourth term in Congress. "Representative Vern Buchanan is on the ropes," Adam Scott said in a statement, citing a possible House Ethics Committee investigation and a recent vote on Medicare.

"Spending money on TV is all he has left, even as the people of the Suncoast are unlikely to trust what they see when Representative Buchanan's ads go on the air."

Buchanan plans to spend $3.3 million with the four network affiliates in Tampa Bay, and $350,000 will be spent with the ABC affiliate in Sarasota, according to his consultant's memo. Another $400,000 will be spent with seven cable TV networks aired by Bright House Networks, Verizon Fios and Comcast, with ads appearing 21 to 40 times per network per week.

Local television viewers are likely to see and hear plenty about Buchanan and Fitzgerald later this summer and into the fall. According to Politico, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved $2.5 million in ad time in the Tampa Bay television market -- the bulk of which will likely be spent on Fitzgerald's behalf, presuming he remains competitive in the race.

DCCC spokeswoman Stephanie Formas said Buchanan's planned ad buy corresponds directly to his ongoing legal issues.

"Congressman Vern Buchanan is spending a million dollars for each federal investigation by the FBI, IRS, a federal grand jury and House Ethics Committee," Formas said in a statement.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, for which Buchanan is a chief fundraiser, fired back at the Democrats.

"Keith Fitzgerald's campaign is clearly running on empty," spokesman Nat Sillin said in a statement. "Taking a page out of the tired Washington playbook by trying to distract voters from his plans to follow the Pelosi/Obama agenda which has destroyed Florida jobs and made the economy worse."

Buchanan may have to dip into his personal wealth to pay for some of his campaign advertising. As of March 31, Buchanan's campaign reported having $1.47 million in cash on hand, including $250,000 loaned by Buchanan personally, according to the Federal Elections Commission.

Fitzgerald reported having a little more than $422,000 in cash on hand.