'Most Expensive,' 'Least Transparent' Court Election: Michigan

A staggering 75 percent of all spending the Michigan Supreme Court election is hidden from public view, as it falls outside the state’s campaign finance disclosure requirements, the Michigan Campaign Finance Network said.

The nonpartisan watchdog, a Justice at Stake partner group, lamented in a statement that the contest “appears to be headed for the notorious distinction of being the nation’s most expensive and least transparent judicial election campaign in 2012.”

Michigan’s political parties will spend an estimated $10 million by Nov. 6 on Supreme Court “issue” advertising, but they haven’t disclosed that spending or the donors of the funds that supported it, MCFN said.  Meanwhile, the candidates have reported raising a combined $2,735,178, and the political parties and PACs have reported independent expenditures of $679,094.

“As shameful as it is to have the Michigan Supreme Court campaign be mostly off-the-books, it should be noted that the actual volume of undisclosed spending is higher than the $10 million I can document,” said Rich Robinson, the group’s executive director. Robinson utilizes public inspection files at local TV stations to locate data on ad spending (see Gavel Grab).

On Oct. 26, a joint analysis by JAS and another partner group, the Brennan Center for Justice, reported that Michigan was leading the nation for spending on TV ads in judicial elections.


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