Special Interest Group Outspends Candidates on TV in Wisconsin Judicial Election

February 15, 2011

Club for Growth Tops $321,000 in Ad Campaign Backing Prosser, Brennan Center Says

New York, NY — The conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth has spent more on television advertising than all candidates combined in the primary election for a seat on the Supreme Court of Wisconsin. Overall, the Club for Growth accounted for $321,000 of the approximately $461,000 spent on TV ads, according to data accumulated by the Brennan Center for Justice.

The Club for Growth ads, which backed Justice David Prosser, accounted for 70 percent of all TV spending through Sunday, February 13, said Adam Skaggs, counsel for the Brennan Center’s Fair Courts Project. Challengers Joel Winnig and JoAnne Kloppenburg spent an estimated $74,000 and $66,000 on TV ads, respectively.

Prosser and the two challengers all are participating in Wisconsin’s new judicial public financing program, which provided each of the three candidates with $100,000 in public money for the primary campaign. The fourth candidate, Marla Stephens, did not seek public financing—and has spent no money on TV ads.

“The level of spending in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court election – on TV and otherwise – will increase before the general election in April,” Skaggs said.  “But initial reporting through the primary campaign shows that all three publicly funded candidates have had sufficient funds to mount competitive races.  Outside interest groups, which have historically been active in Wisconsin judicial elections, are also engaged this year, with the Club for Growth spending more on TV advertisements than all the candidates combined.” 

According to the most recent campaign finance reports filed with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (and including the allocated public funds), through February 8, Prosser reported raising $126,597 and spending $95,601. Kloppenburg reported raising $129,870 and spending $47,625. Winnig raised $110,765 and reported spending $15,686, while Stephens raised $37,689 and spent $30,629. 

The TV ad spending data reflected ads aired through Sunday, February 13, and were gathered by TNS Media Intelligence CMAG for the Brennan Center. Streaming video and storyboards of every television advertisement aired in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court election this year are available on the Brennan Center’s website, at http://www.brennancenter.org/WI_2011.

For more information or to set up an interview, please contact Erik Opsal at 646-292-8356 or at erik.opsal@nyu.edu.

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The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is a nonpartisan public policy and law institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy and justice. The Center works on issues including judicial independence, voting rights, campaign finance reform, racial justice in criminal law, and presidential power in the fight against terrorism. Part think tank, part public interest law firm, part advocacy group, the Brennan Center combines scholarship, legislative and legal advocacy, and communications to win meaningful, measurable change in the public sector. For more information, visit www.brennancenter.org.

TV Methodology
All data on ad airings and spending on ads are calculated and prepared by TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG, which captures satellite data in the nation’s largest media markets.  CMAG’s calculations do not reflect ad agency commissions or the costs of producing advertisements. The costs reported here therefore understate actual expenditures; the estimates are useful principally for purposes of comparison of relative spending levels across time and among states.