Through Minneapolis Voices' election partnership with MinnPost, we’ve been looking into who is spending money in the 2023 Minneapolis election, and what they’re spending it on. Over at MinnPost, you can check out a list of campaign mailers residents have received and take a look at the big political players involved in this year’s race.

During the 2023 election season, several political action committees have been producing campaign literature and advertising for and against specific candidates. Political action committees, or PACs, are organizations that can raise and spend an unlimited sum of money above and beyond campaign spending limits. They operate separately from the candidates they support, and legally are not allowed to coordinate with campaigns. While a few of the campaigns have been running digital ad programs themselves, there have been two outside PACs that have been dominating the spending so far – All of Mpls and Minneapolis for the Many. You can head over to MinnPost to read Kyle Stokes’ story on outside spending by the two PACs.  

All of Mpls supports more moderate candidates, specifically Ward 4 Councilmember LaTrisha Vetaw, Ward 7 candidate Scott Graham, Ward 10 candidate Bruice Dachis, and Ward 12 candidate Luther Ranheim.

Minneapolis for the Many supports more progressive candidates, specifically Ward 5 Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison, Ward 7 candidate Katie Cashman, Ward 8 candidate Soren Stevenson, and Ward 12 candidate Aurin Chowdhury, Minneapolis for the Many is a new PAC this year.

One way to track where these groups are spending money is by looking at publicly-available digital advertising trackers. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Google ads can be tracked using publicly available research tools. We took a look at where All of Mpls and Minneapolis for the Many are spending money to get a sense of what campaigns the PACs are investing in.

Facebook and Instagram

All of Mpls

Estimated spending: $8,000

All of Mpls started running ads Oct. 6. All of Mpls has posted roughly 20 separate ads.  Many of its ads focus on voting for the particular candidates the PAC supports. On Oct. 26, All of Mpls released video ads with the Minneapolis Firefighters Association Local 82, which endorsed Jenkins, Graham, and Ranheim. The video script, read by Local 82 President Mark Lakosky, is identical across all three videos besides the switching out of the names. “Building trust within the community is essential, Andrea Jenkins/Scott Graham/Luther Ranheim is committed to…”

A video ad with Minneapolis Firefighters Association Local 82 in support of Ward 8 Councilmember Andrea Jenkins, paid for by All of Mpls.

Like most digital ads, the audience size and cost vary by ad. Jenkin’s Minneapolis Firefighters Local 82 video reached about 5,000 people and was seen around 25,000 times. So far that ad has cost a bit over $900. An image ad for Graham that started on Oct. 20 has cost more than $100 with an audience of around 5,000 people.

On Nov. 4, All of Mpls released an ad in support of Ward 10 candidate Bruce Dachis. The video ad focuses on his Star Tribune endorsement. On Nov. 1, All of Mpls released video ads focusing on the Star Tribune endorsements of Graham, Ranheim, and Jenkins as well.

Minneapolis for the Many

Estimated spending: $15,600

Minneapolis for the Many started running ads Sept. 21. The organization has posted about seven separate ads. Many of the ads are videos of “neighbors” from specific neighborhoods talking about issues in Minneapolis (e.g. “City Hall leaders have prioritized the wealthy few”)  and how a specific City Council candidate can help address those issues.  Some of the neighbors are the same across the ads, some differ. The script is also similar across the ads, but is tweaked for each candidate.

A video social media post for Ward 7 candidate Katie Cashman paid for by Minneapolis for the Many.

On Oct. 16, Minneapolis for the Many debuted a negative ad campaign against Andrea Jenkins by distributing five ads on two different topics. One ad is about Jenkins’ vote to approve a police union contract without reforms, and the other is about Jenkins’ choice to hold a vote about a rent control policy ordinance on a Muslim holiday when three councilmembers were absent. The ad campaign has cost $900 so far. On Oct. 25, the PAC launched a negative ad against Scott Graham about his history as a landlord and property manager (Transparency note: Southwest Voices reported on the housing violations).

Six Minneapolis for the Many ads have reached a cost of at least $2,000, due to the ads’ high eyeball count, including the Cashman video ad that has an estimated audience size of 50-100,000 and has been seen more than 175,000 times.  

Google and YouTube

Google doesn’t release audience and advertising cost numbers to the public, but there are commonalities across the two PAC’s ad buys and what they bought on Facebook and Instagram.

All of Mpls

All of Mpls has bought 71 advertisements through Google, over half of them image ads. The organization also bought close to 30 video ads, some of which are unique to Google. All of Mpls is also running the Minneapolis Firefighters Association Local 82 endorsement ads on Google. One of the video ads is a YouTube ad for Bruce Dachis.

One of the Bruce Dachis video ads paid for by All of Mpls.

The image ads include Star Tribune endorsement ads, an ad with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison endorsing Jenkins, Jenkins posting with Rep. Illan Omar, and a Scott Graham ad with a Lisa Goodman quote in support of Graham.

A website ad that focuses on Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison's endorsement of Ward 8 Councilmember Andrea Jenkins, paid for by All of Mpls.

Minneapolis for the Many

Conversely, Minneapolis for the Many invested heavily in YouTube ads, which Google owns. It also bought two text-based website ads.

Two negative campaign ads against Ward 7 candidate Scott Graham and Ward 8 Councilmember Andrea Jenkins as Google text ads paid for by Minneapolis for the Many.

The YouTube ads the organization is running are the negative Jenkins and Graham ads, and the supportive Cashman, Chowdhury, Stevenson, and Jeremiah Ellison ads. The organization is running two versions of the Cashman and Aurin ads that differ in length–15 and 30 seconds.

One of two Ward 12 candidate Aurin Chowdhury YouTube ads paid for by Minneapolis for the Many.

This ad analysis ended on Nov. 5. Changes to advertising by All of Mpls and Minneapolis for Many may be seen on Nov. 6 and on Election Day, Nov. 7.