Backed by a small time buy in a few states, a TV advertisement sponsored by a 527 called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth began airing on August 5, 2004. The ad claimed that John Kerry lied to obtain his Viet Nam War medals. A news account in The New York Times indicated that the group intended to spend $500,000 to put the ad on stations in Wisconsin, Ohio, and West Virginia. Though according the article, an aide for the Kerry campaign disputed these figures arguing that the buy “was far smaller, for only $156,000 in seven smallish markets.”
In a dramatic illustration of the power of free media such as talk radio and cable talk shows to assist an independent group in getting its message out, recent polling by the University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey finds that more than half of the country has heard about or seen the ad. Thirty-three percent of a national sample of respondents report having seen it and an additional 24 percent report having heard about it. These findings are based on polling of 2,209 respondents between August 9 and August 16, 2004. The margin of error for this sample is plus or minus 2 percent.