New York, NY – Special interest spending dominated this week’s primary for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, with the conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth spending more than $300,000 on television advertisements in support of incumbent Justice Pat Roggensack. The Club for Growth was responsible for more than 75% of the nearly $400,000 in TV spending in the primary race, and more than 80% of the total ad spots, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG estimates released by the Brennan Center for Justice and Justice at Stake.
Television spending data for the Wisconsin race, ads, and storyboards, are available at the Brennan Center’s Buying Time: Wisconsin 2013 webpage.
“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.”
“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.
Justice Roggensack was the only candidate to spend money on television ads, spending more than $90,000. Justice Roggensack and Marquette law professor Ed Fallone received the most votes in the three-way nonpartisan primary and will face off in the general election on April 2.
Recent Wisconsin Supreme Court races have featured multi-million dollar campaigns and vicious, mudslinging attack ads. In 2011, special interest groups spent just under $3.6 million on television ads – a new record – in a Supreme Court race that many groups recast as a referendum on Governor Scott Walker following his controversial decision to change the state’s collective bargaining process. This year’s race has already been colored by charges of dysfunction on the Supreme Court itself, including an allegation by Justice Ann Walsh Bradley that Justice David Prosser choked her during an argument. Justice Bradley recently criticized Justice Roggensack for minimizing the Court’s dysfunction during her reelection campaign.
With the Court’s 4-3 conservative majority on the line this year, Wisconsin is likely to see another high-cost race with significant spending by outside groups. The candidates themselves will also face increased pressure to fundraise. After introducing public financing for judicial races in 2011, the legislature eliminated the program after just one election. Justice Roggensack has reportedly raised approximately $200,000 through early February, while Professor Fallone has raised about $80,000.
All data on ad airings and spending on ads are calculated and prepared by TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG, which captures satellite data in that nation’s largest media markets. CMAG’s calculations do not reflect ad agency commissions or the costs of producing advertisements, nor do they reflect the cost of ad buys on local cable channels. The costs reported here therefore understate actual expenditures.