“Well, Michigan, we did it again,” laments Rich Robinson (left), Executive Director of JAS partner organization the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, in an op-ed for the Detroit Free Press. Citing data from Bankrolling the Bench: The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2013-14, co-authored by Justice at Stake, he notes that Michigan once again held the costliest state Supreme Court race in the nation in 2014. And, he adds, many of the spenders’ actual identities will never be disclosed, as the phenomenon of “dark money” continues to plague these races.
“Dark money judicial campaigns have been endemic in Michigan since the 2000 Supreme Court campaign,” Robinson writes. “Since then, $71 million has been spent in filling 18 seats. More than $39 million (55%) was outside the campaign disclosure system.”
Calling for a change in the system, Robinson notes that some efforts at reform have run aground in the state legislature and governor’s office.
In his conclusion, he doesn’t mince words. “Our Supreme Court campaigns are a national disgrace,” he states bluntly. “If we’re to have shared trust and confidence in the impartiality of our courts, we must demand fully transparent judicial election campaigns.”