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TV Spending in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race Tops $1.1 Million, Outside Groups Dominate

Television spending in Wisconsin Supreme Court race this year topped $1.1 million, with nearly 70 percent of spending coming from conservative interest groups. Incumbent Justice Pat Roggensack defeated Marquette law professor Ed Fallone in the April 2 election, maintaining the Court’s 4–3 conservative majority.

April 4, 2013

Contact: Seth Hoy, Bren­nan Center for Justice, seth.hoy@nyu.edu, (646) 292–8369 or Lauren Ketchum, Justice at Stake, lketch­um@justiceats­take.org, (202) 204–6015

Tele­vi­sion spend­ing in this year’s race for a seat on the Wiscon­sin Supreme Court topped $1.1 million, with nearly 70 percent of spend­ing coming from conser­vat­ive interest groups, accord­ing to estim­ates released by the Bren­nan Center for Justice and Justice at Stake. Incum­bent Justice Pat Roggen­sack, who is part of the Court’s conser­vat­ive wing, defeated Marquette law professor Ed Fallone in the April 2 elec­tion, main­tain­ing the Court’s 4–3 conser­vat­ive major­ity.

Tele­vi­sion spend­ing for this year’s Supreme Court race was lower than in recent years, where conten­tious races put Wiscon­sin fifth in the nation in TV spend­ing from 2000–2009. In 2011, total TV spend­ing in Wiscon­sin was more than $3.9 million, in a Supreme Court race that many groups recast as a refer­en­dum on Governor Scott Walker follow­ing his contro­ver­sial decision to change the state’s collect­ive bargain­ing process.

“While over­all TV spend­ing in the Wiscon­sin Supreme Court race was less than in previ­ous years, special interests contin­ued to domin­ate,” said Alicia Bannon, coun­sel in the Bren­nan Center’s Demo­cracy Program. “Wiscon­sin’s million-dollar spend­ing puts public confid­ence in the courts at risk.”

“When interest groups routinely outspend the candid­ates, judges are pres­sured to be account­able to them instead of the law," said Bert Branden­burg, exec­ut­ive director of Justice at Stake.

Fallone was outspent by Roggen­sack and outside groups nearly five-to-one*. The pro-busi­ness group WMC Issues Mobil­iz­a­tion Coun­cil spent approx­im­ately $470,000 in ads support­ing Roggen­sack during the general elec­tion, and the conser­vat­ive Wiscon­sin Club for Growth spent approx­im­ately $300,000 in ads support­ing Roggen­sack in the primary. Roggen­sack spent about $155,000 on TV ads, while Fallone spent about $190,000. Progress­ive and labor groups sat out this year’s race after spend­ing nearly $1.4 million on TV ads in 2011. 

Ads by Roggen­sack and the outside groups support­ing her campaign struck a posit­ive tone, high­light­ing her record and exper­i­ence. In contrast, Fallone’s one ad focused on dysfunc­tion in the Wiscon­sin Supreme Court, includ­ing an alleg­a­tion by Justice Ann Walsh Brad­ley that Justice David Prosser choked her during an argu­ment.

Tele­vi­sion spend­ing data for the Wiscon­sin race, ads, and story­boards, are avail­able at the Bren­nan Center’s Buying Time: Wiscon­sin 2013 webpage.

TV Meth­od­o­logy

All data on ad airings and spend­ing on ads are calcu­lated and prepared by TNS Media Intel­li­gence/CMAG, which captures satel­lite data in that 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 under­state actual expendit­ures.


CORREC­TION: This press release origin­ally repor­ted that Fallone was outspent by Roggen­sack and outside groups nearly ten-to-one, when in fact, it is five-to-one.

UPDATE: After this press release was issued on April 4, 2013, Kantar Media/CMAG lowered its estim­ates for total TV spend­ing in the Wiscon­sin Supreme Court race.  CMAG’s data edit­ing process may take between three to four months, and estim­ated spend­ing totals were changed after the edit­ing process was fully completed. These updated figures are as follows: $750,000 in total spend­ing, with more than 65 percent of spend­ing coming from conser­vat­ive interest groups.  WMC Issues Mobil­iz­a­tion Coun­cil: $280,000 in spend­ing on ads support­ing Roggen­sack.  Wiscon­sin Club for Growth: nearly $220,000 on ads support­ing Roggen­sack. Roggen­sack ad spend­ing: over $110,000.  Fallone ad spend­ing: over $140,000. All numbers in this release were updated on Octo­ber 22, 2013.