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TV Ad Spending in Arkansas Supreme Court Race Doubles from 2012

TV 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 and Justice at Stake.

May 21, 2014

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.”

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Tele­vi­sion spend­ing data for the Arkan­sas race, ads, and story­boards, are avail­able at the Bren­nan Center’s Buying Time: Arkan­sas 2014 webpage.

TV Meth­od­o­logy

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.