Outside TV Spending in AR Supreme Court Race Breaks Record

396px-Seal_of_the_Supreme_Court_of_Arkansas.svgJudicial Crisis Network, based in Washington, D.C., has purchased more TV ad contracts in the race for Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice, bringing its total ad buys to date to $336,245, Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice reported on Monday.

This  more than doubles the previous high for outside spending in an Arkansas Supreme Court race, which was $164,560. That is according to Bankrolling the Bench, an examination of  spending in all state Supreme Court races in 2013-14 by JAS, the Brennan Center, and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

A JCN-sponsored ad that has begun airing  targets incumbent Justice Courtney Goodson as an “insider” who  accepted money from trial lawyers. Ads may be viewed on the Brennan Center’s “Buying Time” website. Meanwhile, TV ad contracts booked by the Goodson campaign have risen to $104,805, according to FCC records.

“Everyone in Arkansas should be concerned about this national organization pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into a state judicial race to shape its high court, and they should be asking tough questions,” said Liz Seaton, Interim JAS Executive Director. “Why are they spending, and to what end? Most importantly, what return on investment are they anticipating?”

“The fact that outside spending in Arkansas has already doubled from the last cycle highlights its growing importance in judicial elections in the state, and nationwide,” said Alicia Bannon, senior counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program and a co-author of Bankrolling the Bench. “Increased outside spending is a troubling trend because groups like the Judicial Crisis Network are not required to disclose their donors, leaving voters in the dark about who is really trying to influence judicial elections. Outside groups are also much more likely than candidates to go negative.”

Goodson is facing Circuit Judge Dan Kemp in the Chief Justice race.

The Brennan Center is a JAS partner organization.