Special Interest TV Spending in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race Tops $3 Million

April 4, 2011

Interest Group TV Spending Likely to Exceed Record-Breaking 2008 Election, Brennan Center Says

Contact: Erik Opsal, erik.opsal@nyu.edu, (646) 292-8356

With just one day to go before Election Day, spending on television advertising continues at a blistering pace in the race between incumbent Justice David Prosser and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg, topping $3 million.

Special interest groups across the political spectrum are driving the spending frenzy, as they seek to recast the race as a referendum on Governor Scott Walker. Through Sunday, April 3rd, five special interest groups had spent $3,057,710 on TV advertising, according to data accumulated by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

Since the primary, the liberal Greater Wisconsin Committee (GWC) has been the top special interest spender, paying more than $1.2 million on TV ads supporting Kloppenburg’s campaign. Collectively, four conservative interest groups have out-spent GWC, however, spending more than $1.8 million on a series of ads favoring Prosser and attacking Kloppenburg’s qualifications for the Supreme Court. Of that total, $415,860 came from the Wisconsin Club for Growth (CFG), which was the only independent group to fund TV advertising during the primary campaign.

Total special-interest spending -- $3,057,710

  • Greater Wisconsin Committee (GWC) -- $1,206,270
  • Issues Mobilization Council of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) -- $758,790
  • Citizens for a Strong America (CSA) -- $671,600
  • Wisconsin Club for Growth (CFG) -- $415,860
  • State Tea Party Express -- $5,100

If special interest spending continues at the pace of the last several days, spending by non-candidate groups in this year’s contest will surpass the high-water mark of the 2008 election between then-Justice Louis Butler and challenger (and now Justice) Michael Gableman. In that race, non-candidate special interest groups spent approximately $3.38 million on TV air time.

Through Election Day Brennan Center will continue to update TV spending figures on its website — at http://www.brennancenter.org/WI_2011 — where it also features streaming video and storyboards of every television advertisement aired in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court election this year.

The special interest group TV ad spending data were calculated and prepared by TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG for the Brennan Center. CMAG captures TV satellite data in the nation’s media markets; its calculations do not reflect ad agency commissions, the costs of producing advertisements, or airtime purchased on local cable networks that are not aired by satellite. Accordingly, these estimates are conservative, and underestimate the precise actual amounts of expenditures.

Prosser and Kloppenburg, who each received $100,000 in public money for the primary campaign and $300,000 for the general election from the state’s new judicial public financing program, have also spent considerable resources on TV ad time — though much of their spending has been for cable TV purchases that are not reflected in the satellite capture data. According to campaign finance reports filed with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, Kloppenburg has spent at least $290,000 on media buys (including TV and radio), and Prosser has spent at least $148,000 on media buys.