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Supreme Court Race Heats Up in Ohio

October 5, 2006

For Immediate Release
Thursday, October 5, 2006

Contact Information:
James Sample, Brennan Center for Justice, 212–992–8648

Supreme Court Races Heat Up in Ohio:
Television Advertising Begins in Judicial Battleground State


New York, NY Television advertisements in Ohios state Supreme Court general election campaigns have hit the airwaves. Ohio has become a bellwether state reflecting the national trend of expensive judicial elections, noted the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, a non-partisan public interest law firm and think tank. This past week a new political action committee, Partnership for Ohios Future, spent $297,615 on television advertising supporting two Supreme Court candidates, Republican Judge Robert Cupp and incumbent Justice Terry ODonnell. Since 2000, Ohio has consistently had the most television advertising in Supreme Court elections of any state nationwide.

One ad sponsored by the Partnership focuses solely on Justice ODonnells qualifications, while the advertisement supporting Cupp states: Bob Cupp is a man of principle who led the fight against liberal activists to preserve Ohios motto, With God, all things are possible. The Partnership shares an address with and has other ties to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

Last weeks groundbreaking study of Ohio judicial campaign contributions demonstrates that disproportionate influence by special interest groups, whether through contributions or independent expenditures, jeopardizes the due process rights of all citizens, said James Sample, associate counsel at the Brennan Center. (See Campaign Cash Mirrors a High Court Ruling, The New York Times, October 1, 2006).

Business groups became involved in Ohios Supreme Court elections in the aftermath of two 1999 decisions that favored injured workers. In 2000 special interest groups spent more than $2.7 million on television advertising about Supreme Court candidates. Justice Alice Robie Resnick, the only Democrat now on the Ohio Supreme Court, is stepping down from the bench this year, creating the possibility of an entirely Republican court. Judge Cupp is running against Democrat Ben Espy for that open seat.

Judge William ONeill, who for the second time is running against Justice ODonnell, has said he will not accept any campaign contributions. In 2004 Justice ODonnell out-raised his opponent by more than $1 million, primarily with contributions from insurance, financial, and medical industries. This year Judge ONeill has pledged to use $4,000 of his own money to print fliers. As of October 4, Justice ODonnell had raised $550,716.

The Brennan Center has been studying television advertising in state Supreme Court elections since 2000. Its semi-annual report, The New Politics of Judicial Elections, has documented growing threats to fair and impartial courts over the last three election cycles.