‘Special Interest Spending’ Becomes Focus of Ads
For Immediate Release: March 19, 2015
Contact: Seth Hoy, firstname.lastname@example.org, 646–292–8369 or Laurie Kinney, email@example.com; 202–588–9454, cell 571–882–3615
Spending by just one candidate on television advertising contracts in the race for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court is over $145,000, according to an analysis of public records by the Brennan Center for Justice and Justice at Stake. Outside groups, meanwhile, have yet to open their checkbooks for TV ads.
To date, public FCC records show that incumbent Justice Ann Walsh Bradley’s campaign has spent $145,355 on TV contracts in five markets across the state. One ad accuses Bradley’s challenger, Rock County Circuit Court Judge James Daley, of lenient sentencing of a man convicted of assaulting children. In another, Bradley says special interests have no place in the courtroom.
Daley has yet to book TV advertising, according to records, although his campaign has aired radio ads that accuse Bradley of being an “activist” judge siding with “out-of-state special interests.” Bradley has also aired radio ads, using a clip from a radio talk show in which the host accuses Daley of being soft on a “monstrous child abuser.”
Outside groups that have spent heavily in Wisconsin supreme court races in the past have yet to book advertising. Three such groups — the Wisconsin Club for Growth, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and Citizens for a Strong America — are now reportedly under investigation for possible campaign finance violations in connection with Wisconsin Gov. Walker’s campaign during the recall election of 2011 and 2012.
A legal challenge to this investigation is now pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and the special prosecutor has filed a recusal motion under seal asking one or more of the justices to step aside. Collectively, the three groups reportedly spent more than $8 million between 2007 and 2013, in support of Justices David Prosser, Pat Roggensack, Annette Ziegler, and Michael Gableman.
“The Wisconsin Supreme Court is facing serious questions about conflicts of interest as it prepares to hear a case reportedly involving major spenders in the campaigns of four sitting justices,” said Alicia Bannon, Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. “It is no wonder that ‘special interest spending’ has become a focus of TV and radio ads.”
“Wisconsin’s judicial elections have often led the nation in spending by outside groups,” said Bert Brandenburg, Executive Director of Justice at Stake, “and they’ve produced some of the nastiest ads seen across the country. But with several of these groups under the microscope, it will be interesting to see if they lie low this time around.”
The Wisconsin Supreme Court election will take place on April 7. Wisconsin’s Supreme Court and judicial elections are nonpartisan.