Choose Your Judges

Campaign Spending Heats up in Supreme Court Elections

February 20th, 2013

The last week before the election typically sees a dramatic increase in the amount of spending, but preliminary figures are already in for a number of high-profile races:

In Iowa, groups seeking to remove three Justices for their votes overturning a same sex marriage ban have spent $539,000, while those supporting retention have spent $117,000.

In Illinois, supporters of embattled Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride have raised $2.1 million,
while conservative groups seeking to unseat him have raised $561,000.

In Ohio

In Colorado, an anti-tax group seeking to remove some of the Supreme Court Justices seems to be out of money after having raised barely$33,000.

To compare these figures, it is important to consider the size of the state where the advertisements are running:

Iowa: Spending = $656,000; Population = 3 million;

Ratio = 22 cents/citizen

Illinois: Spending = $2.6 million; Population = 12.9 million;

Ratio = 21 cents/citizen

Ohio: Spending (TV ads only) = $1.1 million; Population = 11.5 million;

Ratio =10 cents/citizen

Colorado: Spending (opponents only)=$33,000; Population = 5 million;

Ratio = .6 cents/citizen

Iowa, Ohio, and Colorado are races involving multiple judges, whereas the Illinois numbers are from one specific race. So at this point it looks like Illinois is “winning” the campaign spending contest.

In other election news, the organization Justice at Stake has compiled current examples of attack advertisements from the judicial races in Michigan, Iowa, and Illinois. Of particular interest is an ad from the Iowa race, which begins by criticizing the “ruling class” who “say it’s wrong for voters to hold Supreme Court justices accountable for their decisions.” This is indicative of the divide between the populists, who want to treat judges as politicians and punish them for unpopular decisions, and the “elitists,” who believe judges should be somewhat insulated from politics.

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