Advertisements helping to shape the upcoming presidential election are being created not on Madison Avenue, but on Fairmount Avenue.
When Iowa Republicans go to next week's caucuses, many may have seen ads produced by Towson-based Mentzer Media Services Inc. for a super-Political Action Committee (PAC) opposing former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich.
The PAC, Restore our Future Inc., has paid for ads that target Gingrich as well as Texas Gov. Rick Perry. It also has run several ads favoring former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
In the last two weeks, Restore our Future has spent $2.6 million on anti-Gingrich ads, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. About half of that money was spent on contracts with Mentzer Media.
If you haven't heard of Mentzer, you may be familiar with their work. The firm was behind ads run in 2004 by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth against the 2004 presidential run of Sen. John Kerry.
The firm was founded in 1991 by Bruce Mentzer, a veteran of state and federal campaigns, according to a biography on the company's website.
Locally, the firm took $110,000 for television ads from Baltimore County Executive candidate Ken Holt in 2010. No other checks to Mentzer Media appear in state campaign finance records.
Mentzer did not respond to an interview request this week.
What does their recent target, Gingrich, have to say about the ads (which PolitiFact this week ranked all as "half true" or "true")? Not surprisingly, Iowa City Patch reports that Gingrich doesn't pay attention to them. He has pledged not to run any negative ads, and discourages supporters from running them, NPR reports.
"People get their information so much now from free media and from debates, etc. and they are so suspicious now of ads that so often can only reinforce existing perceptions," Vatz said.
As for Gingrich's recent drop in the polls, Vatz said he thinks people ought to be quicker to blame his debate performance or personal baggage, rather than a campaign like the one run by the PAC.