Gay marriage, Dream Act advocates to spend millions on airwaves

The battles over Maryland ballot measures that would legalize same-sex marriage and charge in-state tuition to illegal immigrants resemble fights between David and Goliath, with the supporters of both measures outraising and outspending their opponents multiple times over.

Take same-sex marriage. Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the main committee backing the measure, bought 42 ads running this week on Baltimore NBC affiliate WBAL, valued at $44,875, filings with the Federal Communications Commission show. On the other side, the Maryland Marriage Alliance bought 27 ads for $22,300.

Source: Federal Communications Commission

Ad spending on WBAL
Maryland Marriage Alliance Marylanders for Marriage Equality
Oct. 8 to 14 $22,300 $44,875
Oct. 15 to 21 $19,650 $63,550
Oct. 22 to Oct. 28 $22,300 $83,475
Oct. 29 to Nov. 6 $29,225 $105,425
Note: The amounts represented here do not account for a customary 15 percent discount for ads purchased through an ad agency. Both groups received this discount.

Before the election, Marylanders for Marriage Equality will have run 291 ads costing $297,325 on WBAL, while the Maryland Marriage Alliance plans to run 110 ads valued at $93,475.

Marylanders for Marriage Equality is also about to start advertising locally, the documents show.

Overall the campaign has a budget of roughly $5 million to $7 million, said spokesman Kevin Nix. It also has benefited from high-profile celebrity endorsements from the likes of Susan Sarandon and Maryland native Edward Norton, as well as swanky fundraisers with Gov. Martin O'Malley and more red-carpet figures.

"We expect to be outspent 5-to-1, easy," said Derek McCoy, who heads the Maryland Marriage Alliance. He did not say how much the group has raised or how much it plans to spend on ads.

The fight over the Maryland Dream Act -- which would allow illegal immigrants whose parents filed taxes in Maryland for five years to pay in-state tuition at Maryland colleges -- is occurring in a much smaller arena, though the advocates are outspending their opponents there, as well.

Educating Maryland Kids, the coalition supporting the measure, plans to spend about $1 million on ads, said spokeswoman Kristin Ford. The group recently rolled out $54,000 worth of radio ads in the Baltimore area and plans to start its television ad campaign next week.

Having raised slightly more than $1.5 million, its budget is small compared with same-sex marriage supporters, though both groups have benefited from support from O'Malley and other Maryland politicians.

But Educating Maryland Kids' budget is astronomical compared with that of the Dream Act's opponents.

Opponents don't have a committee registered with the state, and their donations are less than the state's campaign finance reporting requirements, said state Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington County, whose website was responsible for getting the measure on the ballot.

They don't get Sarandon endorsing their cause, or the kind of fundraiser O'Malley is hosting Monday night with Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, emphasized Brad Botwin, president of conservative activist group Help Save Maryland.

"We are relying on the grassroots support that we have throughout the state to disseminate information as soon as we get it," Parrott said.

The lack of funds is the reason for Botwin's refusal to publicize Help Save Maryland's advertising efforts.

After the group posted to its website a radio ad urging residents to "learn the facts" about the anti-tuition ballot measure, supporters rolled out more ads on the same station, Botwin said. He can't afford to keep buying more ads.

All ballot issue campaign committees are required to file fundraising reports with the Maryland Board of Elections on Friday.