For Immediate Release
James Sample, Brennan Center for Justice, 212–992–8648
Charles W. Hall, Justice at Stake, 202–588–9454
Alabama and Michigan Lead Nation’s Supreme Court Advertising
New York, NY – Television advertisements in two states—Alabama and Michigan—accounted for three quarters of all spending on television advertising last week in state Supreme Court elections nationwide, according to an analysis by the Brennan Center at NYU School of Law. In Alabama two Supreme Court candidates and one interest group spent a total of $479,134 on television advertisements between October 11 and 17. During that time, one candidate and one interest group in Michigan combined spent $398,428 on ads. Nationwide, candidates and interest groups spent a total of $1,164,101 during the period.
In Alabama, advertising in the campaign between Judge Deborah Bell Paseur and Judge Greg Shaw became increasingly negative. Since the beginning of the campaign, Judge Paseur has spent $967,801, Judge Shaw has spent $565,838, and the Center for Individual Freedom, an Alexandria, Virginia based interest group supporting Judge Shaw, has spent $249,277 on television advertising.
“Unfortunately, when a state that ranks last in the nation in spending on legal services, is nonetheless the vanguard of expensive judicial elections, it creates a perception of two systems of justice, one for the moneyed interests, and one for everyone else,” said James Sample, counsel at the Brennan Center.
The Center for Individual Freedom ad has become a heated issue in the Alabama race. According to a Birmingham Press-Register article, Pasueur criticized the ad, calling the center “a shadowy Washington group.”
In Michigan, between October 11 and 17, the Chamber of Commerce spent $300,825 on television advertising to support the re-election of Chief Justice Cliff Taylor, and Chief Justice Taylor himself spent $97,603. In 2006, the Chamber of Commerce spent $709,058 on television advertisements supporting one candidate, more than seven times the $97,871 she herself spent.
“Independent ads like the Chamber’s have played a growing role in Supreme Court elections,” said Charlie Hall, a spokesman for the Justice at Stake Campaign in Washington. “They enable donors to avoid campaign disclosure laws that apply to candidates, and they are election ads in everything but name.”
Last week Supreme Court television advertisements ran in Texas and North Carolina for the first time this campaign season. In Texas, Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson began running an advertisement for re-election, and in North Carolina Justice Bob Edmunds sponsored the first advertisement in the state. Advertising also ran in West Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, and Ohio.
The Brennan Center’s analyses of television advertising in state Supreme Court elections use data obtained from a commercial firm, TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group (“CMAG”), which records each ad via satellite. CMAG provides information about the location, dates, frequency, and estimated costs of each ad, as well as storyboards. Cost estimates are refined over time and do not include the costs of design and production. As a result, cost estimates substantially understate the actual cost of advertising.