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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit that advocates for gun control, is pouring over $11 million into digital ads targeted at vulnerable Democrats running for House seats this year, according to the group's spokesperson. 

Why it matters: It's the largest digital investment ever made by a Democratic non-profit to win the House. And it puts it ahead of other major Democratic non-profits, like the House Majority PAC, in money spent on digital ads targeted at House races, according to sources familiar with their ad spending this cycle.  

How it worked: The group, along with and Mike Bloomberg's Independence USA PAC, targeted dozens of vulnerable districts all over the country with issue ads on everything from gun control to the Republican tax plan. Ads were optimized for their medium.

  • "With digital ads, it is imperative that we grab the viewer immediately, but that's less essential in the context of a TV ad," says Howard Wolfson, a former Democratic political strategist.

Between the lines: The groups worked with Bully Pulpit Interactive (BPI), one of the largest progressive digital ad agencies in the country, to place the ads. BPI was hired by both the Obama and Clinton presidential campaigns, as well as dozens of other Democratic House, Senate and gubernatorial campaigns. 

  • "We had over 30 people working on this since June," says BPI parter Ben Coffey Clark. "We've been optimizing the campaign on hourly basis."

Be smart: The massive investment also speaks to former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg's commitment to supporting the Democratic Party amid rumors of a presidential run in 2020. 

"Mike has been focused on being able speak to both the base and the middle with our program. He doesn't believe it's a false choice. He doesn't think you have to choose if you have his resources."
— Howard Wolfson 

The bigger picture: In pouring millions in ads into this cycle, the Bloomberg-backed group essentially handed BPI a massive budget to test which ads, strategies and messages are resonating most with voters ahead of 2020.  

  • The Clinton campaign, BPI and other media agencies were criticized after the 2016 election for being overly reliant on models and predictive analytics as a part of their ad strategy. 
  • Republicans, on the other hand, relied more on testing different ad campaigns through thousands of different creative iterations that were targeted daily. 

Go deeper

Toyota to build $1.3 billion U.S. battery plant in North Carolina

The all-electric Toyota bZ4X, the company's first battery-electric vehicle, at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California on Nov. 17. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Toyota announced Monday it's investing $1.3 billion to construct an electric vehicle battery "megasite" near Greensboro, North Carolina, set to open in 2025.

Why it matters: Toyota's Prius hybrid won environmental plaudits when it launched in 1997, but it has since lost ground to electric vehicle world leader Tesla, per Axios' Joann Muller. This battery plant will be the first to produce automotive batteries for Toyota in North America.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.

Scoop: Inside Jake Sullivan's call with U.S. hostages' families

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke last week with relatives of U.S. hostages and others wrongfully detained abroad, after more than two dozen families expressed frustrations about their inability to get a meeting with him or President Biden, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Participants on the video call, which began at 7pm ET Friday and lasted more than an hour, told Axios they didn't get satisfactory answers to many of their questions. Nonetheless, they were encouraged by Sullivan's commitment to follow up and pledge to be personally available to them and others going forward.