Special interest spending on TV advertising far outpaced TV spending by candidates in the run-up to Tuesday’s Wisconsin Supreme Court primary, according to an analysis by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice.
The conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth pumped more than $300,000 into TV ads backing incumbent Justice Patience Roggensack. The Club for Growth was responsible for more than three-quarters of the nearly $400,000 in TV spending in the primary race. Justice Roggensack’s campaign spent more than $90,000 on TV ads. She and Marquette law professor Ed Fallone will face off in April’s general election.
“Contests dominated by outside interest groups often grow nastier, shallower and more partisan. Wisconsin voters deserve a Supreme Court campaign that puts quality and fairness first,” said Bert Brandenburg, executive director of Justice at Stake.
“Around the country, outside groups are increasingly focusing their attention on judicial elections, often outspending the candidates themselves,” said Alicia Bannon, counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “When special interests take over judicial races, public confidence in our courts is threatened.” The Brennan Center is a JAS partner group.
The general election is likely to feature another high-spending Supreme Court race, with the court’s 4-3 conservative majority hanging in the balance. In 2011, special interest groups poured just under $3.6 million into TV ads in a Supreme Court contest that was framed by many groups as a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker and his action to curb collective bargaining by public employees.
Television spending data for this year’s Wisconsin race is available at the Brennan Center’s Buying Time: Wisconsin 2013 webpage.