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Buying Time—Alabama

Spending continues in Alabama, increasing in some situations.

September 18, 2008

logoFor Immediate Release                                                      

Contacts: James Sample of the Brennan Center for Justice,917–355–9557
Charles W. Hall of Justice at Stake, 202–588–9454

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Buying Time 2008:
Alabama’s Supreme Court Election

NEW YORK – The fall 2008 judicial season is underway, and current data on TV advertising continues to offer less-than clear trends as to how much and where judicial campaigns will suffer from excessive special interest and partisan pressure. This week, most of the spending activity took place in Alabama, where if current spending totals continue, a costly ad campaign may characterize the Supreme Court election.

This Week in Judicial Politics

After spending close to $94,000 in campaign ads last week, Judge Greg Shaw’s campaign continues to spend, registering an estimated $91,092 this week in television advertising. Democratic opponent District Judge Deborah Bell Paseur, who Shaw heavily out-advertised last week, increased her advertising spot counts almost ten-fold, and is estimated to have spent $66,492 on advertising during the period of September 6–12.




From 1993 to 2006, Alabama Supreme Court candidates raised a total of $54 million for Supreme Court races, the highest total in the nation. In July, Alabama State Bar President J. Mark White called for reforms to reduce the cost of Supreme Court elections.

During the 2008 election season, the Brennan Center for Justice is releasing weekly, real-time reports on television advertising in state Supreme Court elections. The reports, to be released from September 11 through November 12, will analyze campaign advertising by candidates, political parties, and third-party groups.

The spending on television advertising now places Alabama a distant fourth among states in television advertising tied to state high court elections. Two of the three states ahead of Alabama in spending, Wisconsin and Nevada, have already held their 2008 general elections for their respective supreme courts.




Nationally, it remains to be seen whether, after a blistering start in the spring, spending in the fall of 2008 will keep pace with prior election cycles. With Wisconsin and Nevada having already completed their general elections for seats on their high courts, spending on television advertising in state supreme court races over the 7-day period from September 6 through September 12 is estimated at $178,617. That figure, during a traditionally intense campaign period, represents a mere 3% of the total ad spending in 2008 on state supreme court races year-to-date ($5,563,870).

By comparison, the comparable 7-day period ending on September 10, 2006 featured an estimated $227,723 in estimated expenditures on state supreme court races, a figure that represented 6% of all spending through that date in the 2006 cycle ($3,788,266).


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.