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Buying Time 2004: Television Advertising In State Supreme Court Elections

During the 2004 election season, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law will be releasing weekly, real-time reports on television advertising in state Supreme court elections.

September 8, 2004

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Contact Information:
Natalia Kennedy, 212 998–6736

BUYING TIME 2004: Television Advertising in State Supreme Court Elections
Brennan Center Releases Real-Time Reports Throughout the Campaign Season

New York, NY—During the 2004 election season, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law will be releasing weekly, real-time reports on television advertising in state Supreme court elections. The reports to be released every Wednesday, from September 15 through November 10, will analyze campaign advertising by candidates, political parties, and interest groups. Each release will provide information about:

  • who is advertising and how often
  • tone and content of advertisements
  • estimated cost of airtime

In 2000 and 2002, the Centers studies of television advertising in Supreme Court elections documented growing threats to fair and impartial courts. The studies illustrate (1) the growing influence of money on judicial elections and (2) pressure on candidates to make commitments about how they will rule if elected to the bench – two trends that undermine public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary. The result of those studies have been published in two reports, co-authored with the Institute on Money in State Politics and published by the Justice at Stake Campaign.

Early Findings in 2004

Advertising in Primary Elections Skyrocketed: At least 56 unique primary election ads aired in eight states Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, and West Virginia at an estimated cost of $3.8 million.* A total of least $1.7 million has been spent by seven candidates and two interest groups in Alabama alone. In 2002, only three distinct primary election ads were run, by three candidates in three states (Idaho, Illinois, and Mississippi), at an estimated cost of less than $130,000.

* Candidates in the non-partisan primaries held in Georgia and Oregon, and one candidate in the Arkansas non-partisan primaries, won more than 50% of the vote and therefore secured their seats without advancing to a runoff election.

Ads Were Seen in Four New States: During 2002, candidates and interest groups ran ads in twice as many states as in 2000. Now even before the general election season has begun we have seen ads in four new states: Arkansas, Georgia, Oregon, and West Virginia. No ads were aired in Idaho or North Dakota, which have completed their non-partisan elections.

Non-Partisan Elections Were Invaded by Political Party Advertising: For the first time, a political party ran a campaign ad in a non-partisan election. The Democratic Party aired an advertisement in support of Justice Leah Sears, who won re-election.

Reports (Data Current Through August 29, 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 or visit

For additional information on the Fair Courts movement, please visit the Center’s Fair Courts page.

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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