Television ad spending in an Arkansas Supreme Court race totaled $360,500 this year, nearly double what was spent ($168,410) in 2012, according to estimates released by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and Justice at Stake. Appeals Court Judge Robin Wynne narrowly defeated (52–48) Little Rock attorney Tim Cullen for an open seat on Arkansas’s Supreme Court.
Law Enforcement Alliance of America (LEAA), an outside group with reported ties to the NRA, outspent both candidates with $317,280 on ads attacking Tim Cullen. The ads accused him of working “to throw out the sentence of a repeat sexual predator” and defending child pornography as a “victimless crime.” Cullen responded that the accusations were false and explained how the group’s reference is a misinterpretation of the facts.
The LEAA spent more than ten times what Cullen spent ($31,750) on television ads and more than 30 times more than what Judge Robin Wynne spent (11,470), according to estimates.
“I’m not at all surprised that outside groups outspent candidates in this race,” said Alicia Bannon, Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. “It’s a disturbing trend that we’re seeing across the country. Special interest groups are using attack ads to play politics with our courts, and in many cases judicial candidates are being outspent and unjustly maligned.”
“The high ad spending in Arkansas Supreme Court race comes on the heels of a $1.3-million dollar judicial primary in North Carolina, which was also fueled by out-of-state money,” said Bert Brandenburg, executive director of Justice at Stake. “So much spending, so much negativity, and so much outside meddling happening so early are turning 2014 into a year of escalating pressure on our courts of law.”
This is not the first time the LEAA has sought to influence judicial elections. According to a report out of the Center for American Progress, the LEAA spent “nearly half a million dollars in 2012 to elect Justice Josiah Coleman to the Mississippi high court …. and spent even more to elect pro-gun state attorneys general.”
Television spending data for the Arkansas race, ads, and storyboards, are available at the Brennan Center’s Buying Time: Arkansas 2014 webpage.
All data on ad airings and spending on ads are calculated and prepared by Kantar Media/CMAG, which captures satellite data in the nation’s largest media markets. CMAG’s calculations do not reflect ad agency commissions or the costs of producing advertisements, nor do they reflect the cost of ad buys on local cable channels. The costs reported here therefore likely understate actual expenditures.