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Buying Time 2004: $4.2 Million Already Spent on Advertising for State Supreme Court Elections

During the 2004 election season, the Brennan Center for Justice is releasing weekly real-time reports on television advertising in state Supreme Court elections.

September 15, 2004

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Contact Information:
Natalia Kennedy, 212 998–6736

BUYING TIME 2004: $4.2 Million Already Spent on Advertising for State Supreme Court Elections
Record-Breaking Number of States See Television Ads

New York, NY During the 2004 election season, the Brennan Center for Justice is releasing weekly real-time reports on television advertising in state Supreme Court elections. These reports, to be released every Wednesday through November 10, will analyze campaign advertising by candidates, political parties, and interest groups.

This report includes information from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia. The report provides information about who is advertising and how often, the estimated cost of the airtime, and the tone and content of those advertisements.

Cumulative Report Through September 12, 2004

Total Estimated Cost has Passed $4 Million Mark: As of September 12, the total estimated cost for televised state Supreme Court campaign advertising is $4.2 million. In contrast, total estimated spending in 2002 did not reach $4 million until October 26, 2002 barely a week before the election and involved only eight states by that time. Less than $200,000 has been spent on airtime for advertising in this Novembers general elections all of it in West Virginia.

Early election spending of this magnitude is bound to make the public question the fairness and impartiality of the courts, says Deborah Goldberg, Democracy Program Director at the Brennan Center for Justice. Judicial candidates who are tainted by the influence of big money and special interests must speak out for reforms that protect the integrity of the system.

Ads in 10 States: Since our last release, Louisiana became the tenth state to see television ads in this years Supreme Court campaigns and the fifth airing ads for the first time. (The others were Arkansas, Georgia, Oregon, and West Virginia.) Ads began to run in Louisiana on August 30, in anticipation of the states primary on September 18. The 10-state list already breaks 2002s record of TV ads in nine states, which in turn more than doubled the number states with ads in 2000.

First Ads Aired for General Election: The first ads for Supreme Court contests in the general election have started to air. West Virginia, which saw its first state Supreme Court campaign television advertising this year in the primary is now the first state to experience ads targeting candidates who will appear in the general election. Republican challenger Brent Benjamin and an interest group calling itself “for the Sake of the Kids” have sponsored remarkably similar attack ads criticizing incumbent Justice Warren McGraw. “Will that interest group disclose who is funding the ads?” asks Ms. Goldberg. “Stealth advertising should raise red flags for voters.”

Reports (Data Current Through September 12, 2004)

West Virginia


The Brennan Centers analyses of television advertising in state Supreme Court elections uses 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 based on the average cost of a media buy for the airing time and station. The calculation does not include either premium costs associated with campaign ad buys or the costs of design and production. As a result, cost estimates substantially understate the actual cost of advertising.
For More Information

Buying Time 2004 reports, including links to the storyboards, will be available throughout the campaign season at: The reports will also be included in the Justice at Stake 2004 Supreme Court Elections Real Time Tracking Project ( along with information about candidate fundraising and special interest activity.

For more information, please contact Natalia Kennedy at the Brennan Center at 212–998–6736.

For additional information about the Center’s work to promote fair and impartial courts, please visit: Fair Courts.

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, founded in 1995, unites thinkers and advocates in pursuit of a vision of inclusive and effective democracy. Its mission is to develop and implement an innovative, nonpartisan agenda of scholarship, public education, and legal action that promotes equality and human dignity, while safeguarding fundamental freedoms.
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