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More State Supreme Court Races Include Advertising; More Advertising by Interest Groups

November 6, 2002

For Immediate Release
November 6, 2002

Contact Information:
Amanda Cooper, 212 998–6736

More State Supreme Court Races Include Advertising; More Advertising by Interest Groups

Tuesdays elections ended a banner season of television advertising. Compared with 2000, more than twice as many state Supreme Court elections featured advertising this year. The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law continues to release real-time reports on television advertising in state Supreme Court elections. This release reports on advertising through November 2 in Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, Texas and Washington. Next week we will issue a final release that reports on all advertising through Election Day.

All reports, storyboards of the ads, and other information are available at:

Five states that did not see television advertising in their 2000 state Supreme Court elections (Idaho, Illinois, Nevada, Texas and Washington), have reported airtime buys in 2002. This brings the total number of states with advertising in the 2002 Supreme Court races up to nine. That’s an increase of 125% over the four states with advertising in 2000.

“The spread of television advertising into more than twice as many states since 2000 does not bode well for judicial elections,” says Deborah Goldberg, Deputy Director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “The public already believes that we have two systems of justice one for those with money and one for those without. TV ads are expensive, and as money becomes more important to these elections, that cynicism can only grow.”

Interest groups dominate campaigns

In the 2000 campaigns, Brennan Center research showed that 27% of airtime expenditures were paid for by four interest groups. This year, ten interest groups have bought 31% of the airtime. Interest groups are dominating campaigns in three states, advertising as much as twice as much as any candidate in Michigan and Mississippi (see more on these states below). In the state of Washington, the only ad airing is an attack ad sponsored by an issue group, the First American Education Fund.

As interest groups expand their role in judicial elections, they shrink public confidence in fair and impartial courts, says Ms. Goldberg.

Michigan: The Michigan Chamber of Commerce has spent almost $350,000 advertising in support of two candidates for re-election to the bench. Their ad has dominated the television campaign in Michigan, airing 520 times (see Michigan report, Figure 1) out of a total of 898 spots aired, or 58%. Moreover, the only other advertisements have been paid for by the same two candidates the Chamber is supporting, making for a completely one-sided air war in Michigan.

Mississippi: Spending on airtime in Mississippis 2002 campaign has increased dramatically since 2000. With three days of the campaign still to be reported, spending has already increased more than 250% ($348,000 in 2002 versus $99,000 in 2000).

The Law Enforcement Alliance of America continues to dominate the race in Mississippi. The LEAA has now spent more than $191,000 on airtime, sponsoring 51% of the ads voters have seen regarding judicial elections in that state (see Mississippi report, Figure 1). The LEAA has spent more than twice as much on airtime as the top-spending candidate.

Ohio: backsliding on disclosure

In Ohio, four interest groups have sponsored more than $1.6 million in advertising. Two interest groups have outspent two of the four candidates. Even more troubling, the sponsors of Citizens for an Independent Court, a PAC that has spent nearly $750,000 in disclosed donations have now spun off another group that is not disclosing. According to an Associated Press report, the two groups have the same treasurer and are supported by “essentially the same folks.”

“The only reason for a PAC to start another group for advertising is to bring money into an election that doesn’t belong there,” says Ms. Goldberg. “We need to close these loopholes to restore the public’s faith in the courts.”

Reports referenced in this release:


The Brennan Center is compiling a database of Supreme Court election advertising utilizing information from a commercial firm that records each ad via satellite. The firm provides information about the location, dates, frequency, and estimated costs of the airings of each ad in the top 100 media markets, covering more than 80% of the U.S. population. Brennan Center researchers use storyboards video captures of the ad at four-second intervals, with complete audio text to code the ads, documenting the content, tone, and other information about each ad. Cost estimates are based on the average cost of a media buy for the airing time and station. This calculation does not include either premium costs often associated with ad buys or the costs of production.

Buying Time 2002

Buying Time reports, including links to storyboards, will be available throughout the campaign at

These reports are part of the Justice at Stake Campaign Monitor 2002, a systematic effort to document the fund-raising, television ads, candidate speech and other campaign activity in the increasingly contentious battles for the nations state courts. More information can be found at

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law develops and implements a nonpartisan agenda of scholarship, public education, and legal action that promotes equality and human dignity, while safeguarding fundamental freedoms. For more information, please contact Amanda Cooper at (212) 998–6736 or visit