Buying Time -- 2010
Leading up to the November 2010 election, the Brennan Center released real-time reports on television advertising in state supreme court elections, presented here at “Buying Time — 2010.”
The Brennan Center made available every judicial election advertisement that was aired in more than twenty states holding elections for state supreme courts in 2010. Every advertisement is available for viewing in video format. We also feature storyboards for every ad, which include screen captures of the ads at timed intervals, along with a transcription of the ad’s complete text. Finally, we provide summaries of the amounts spent on TV ads in different states — and breakdowns of which groups are doing the spending. See below for links to state-by-state coverage. (TV ads, storyboards, and figures on spending are provided to the Brennan Center by the Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG).)
Our 2010 reporting continues the groundbreaking analysis first conducted in 2000 examining the sponsorship, content and costs of televised state supreme court campaign ads. Analyses of advertising over these election cycles has culminated in five reports: The New Politics of Judicial Elections, The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2002, The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2004, The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2006 and The New Politics of Judicial Elections, 2000-2009: Decade of Change. These studies document the growing threats to fair and impartial courts from big money, special interest pressure, and television air wars.
State pages will be added as advertisements are aired
This ad from the Michigan State Democratic Party slams Bob Young, an incumbent justice on Michigan’s high court. The ad refers to media reports in which Young’s former colleague, retired Justice Elizabeth Weaver, said that Young “used the word ‘slut’ and the N-word” and calls upon Michigan voters to call Young and tell him “we don’t need a racist or a sexist on the Michigan Supreme Court.” This hard-hitting ad is reminiscent of a notorious attack ad the Michigan Democrats ran against then-Chief Justice Cliff Taylor in 2008, which accused Taylor of sleeping on the bench.
This hard hitting attack ad features a dramatization in which a series of actors recount the grisly details of crimes —"stabbing my victims with a kitchen knife," "shooting my ex-girlfriend," and being convicted of "sexual assault on a mom and her ten year-old daughter" — and then inform viewers that "Justice Thomas Kilbride sided with us over law enforcement of victims." The ad's narrator then urges a "no" vote on Justice Kilbride's retention. The ad is paid for by JUSTPAC, the political action committee of the Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL). Though the soft on crime message targets Justice Kilbride's record on criminal justice issues, ICJL's mission is unrelated to criminal justice: it works in the civil justice system and focuses on tort issues. Among the groups underwiting ICJL's attacks on Kilbride are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Tort Reform Association, and the American Justice Partnership, a creation of the National Association of Manufacturers.
This ad, entitled “Soft on Crime,” attacks Judge Denise Langford Morris, who is challenging incumbent Justice Robert Young of the Michigan Supreme Court. The ad attacks Morris for being “soft on crime for rappers, lawyers, and child pornographers” and urges viewers to urge her to “get tough on convicted criminals.” The ad is sponsored by a Virginia-based group, the Law Enforcement Association of America, which published reports have linked to the National Rifle Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and which has previously bought air time in judicial races in Mississippi (in 2002 and 2008), and Pennsylvania (in 2001). A 2008 ad sponsored by the LEAA was pulled from TV stations in Mississippi after it was denounced as misleading by a state committee on judicial campaign conduct.
Iowa for Freedom continues its attack on the three incumbent Iowa Supreme Court Justices who are sitting for retention this fall. This negative ad — the group's second ad this election cycle to attack the justices for their votes to strike down Iowa’s ban on same-sex marriage — claims that "none of the freedoms we hold dear are safe from judicial activism." These ads are typical of the kind of attack ads that have become prevalent in judicial elections over the last ten years — and which are increasingly paid for by political parties and outside special interest groups rather than judicial candidates themselves. (In 2008, these groups paid for 87% of all negative ads in judicial races.)Iowa for Freedom is affiliated with two national conservative groups, the American Family Association and National Organization for Marriage ("NOM"), which have been active in opposing gay marriage. NOM reported spending $235,000 in September for the first ad run by Iowa for Freedom, and on Tuesday, October 19th, NOM reported that it is spending $200,000 for this second ad.
A.G. Sulzberger, Ouster of Iowa Judges Sends Signal to Bench,New York Times, November 3, 2010.
Editorial, Firing Judges, Washintgon Post, November 5, 2010.
Kate Moser, Panel of Judges Evaluates the Threat of Elections, Current Political Climate, Legal Pad, October 14, 2010.
Our view on judicial independence: Judges face reprisals for unpopular rulings, USA Today, October 19, 2010.
John Hanna, Right's Angst Heats Normally Cold Judicial Races, Associated Press, September 28, 2010.
Editorial, Fair Courts in the Cross-Fire, The New York Times, September 28, 2010.
A.G. Sulzberger, Voters Moving to Oust Judges Over Decisions, The New York Times, September 24, 2010.
Editorial Board, Fair Courts at Risk, New York Times, September 9, 2010.
Susan Liss and Adam Skaggs, Is Justice For Sale?, The National Law Journal, September 6, 2010.
Dan Eggen, Special-Interest Spending Surges In State Supreme Court Campaigns, Washington Post, August 16, 2010.
The Brennan Centers analyses of television advertising in state Supreme Court elections use data obtained from a commercial firm that records each ad via satellite. The firm provides information about the location, dates, frequency, and estimated costs of each ad. Brennan Center researchers use the storyboards video captures of the ad at four-second intervals, with complete audio text to code the ads, documenting the content, tone, and other relevant information. Cost estimates are revised by the firm when it receives updated data, resulting in some fluctuations in the reported costs. The calculation does not include the costs of design and production, so cost estimates substantially understate the actual cost of advertising.