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Buying Time 2010

The 2010 reports continue the groundbreaking analysis conducted since 2000 examining the sponsorship, content and costs of televised state Supreme Court campaign ads.

Published: September 9, 2010

The Bren­nan Center’s “Buying Time 2010” page features every judi­cial tele­vi­sion advert­ise­ment that was aired in those states hold­ing elec­tions for state supreme courts in 2010.  Every advert­ise­ment is avail­able for view­ing in video format.  We also feature story­boards for each ad, which include screen captures of the ads at timed inter­vals, along with a tran­scrip­tion of the ad’s complete text.  Finally, we provide summar­ies of the amounts spent on TV ads in differ­ent states, and break­downs of which groups are doing the spend­ing. See below for links to state-by-state cover­age.  (TV ads, story­boards, and figures on spend­ing are provided to the Bren­nan Center by Kantar Media/CMAG.)

Our 2010 report­ing contin­ued the ground­break­ing  analysis first conduc­ted in 2000 examin­ing the spon­sor­ship, content, and costs of tele­vised state supreme court campaign ads. Analyses of advert­ising over these elec­tion cycles has culmin­ated in six reports: The New Polit­ics of Judi­cial Elec­tionsThe New Polit­ics of Judi­cial Elec­tions 2002The New Polit­ics of Judi­cial Elec­tions 2004The New Polit­ics of Judi­cial Elec­tions 2006The New Polit­ics of Judi­cial Elec­tions, 2000–2009: Decade of Change and The New Polit­ics of Judi­cial Elec­tions 2010. These stud­ies docu­ment the grow­ing threats to fair and impar­tial courts from big money, special interest pres­sure, and tele­vi­sion air wars.

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State Analysis | News | Meth­od­o­logy | Spend­ing

State Break­downs

Alabama | Alaska | Arkan­sas | Color­ado | Idaho | Illinois | Iowa | Michigan

Montana | North Caro­lina | Ohio | TexasWash­ing­ton | West Virginia

Real Time Analysis 

Through­out the elec­tion season the Bren­nan Center issued a series of analyses focused on judi­cial elec­tion spend­ing 

Featured Advert­is­ments

This ad from the Michigan State Demo­cratic Party slams Bob Young, an incum­bent justice on Michigan’s high court.  The ad refers to media reports in which Young’s former colleague, retired Justice Eliza­beth Weaver, said that Young “used the word ‘slut’ and the N-word” and calls upon Michigan voters to call Young and tell him “we don’t need a racist or a sexist on the Michigan Supreme Court.”  This hard-hitting ad is remin­is­cent of a notori­ous attack ad the Michigan Demo­crats ran against then-Chief Justice Cliff Taylor in 2008, which accused Taylor of sleep­ing on the bench.


This hard hitting attack ad features a dramat­iz­a­tion in which a series of actors recount the grisly details of crimes —"stabbing my victims with a kitchen knife," “shoot­ing my ex-girl­friend,” and being convicted of “sexual assault on a mom and her ten year-old daugh­ter” — and then informs view­ers that “Justice Thomas Kilbride sided with us over law enforce­ment of victims.”  The ad’s narrator then urges a “no” vote on Justice Kilbride’s reten­tion.  The ad is paid for by JUST­PAC, the polit­ical action commit­tee of the Illinois Civil Justice League (ICJL).   Though the soft on crime message targets Justice Kilbride’s record on crim­inal justice issues, ICJL’s mission is unre­lated to crim­inal justice:  it works in the civil justice system and focuses on tort issues.  Among the groups under­wit­ing ICJL’s attacks on Kilbride are the U.S. Cham­ber of Commerce, the Amer­ican Tort Reform Asso­ci­ation, and the Amer­ican Justice Part­ner­ship, a creation of the National Asso­ci­ation of Manu­fac­tur­ers.


This ad, entitled “Soft on Crime,” attacks Judge Denise Lang­ford Morris, who is chal­len­ging incum­bent Justice Robert Young of the Michigan Supreme Court.  The ad attacks Morris for being “soft on crime for rappers, lawyers, and child porno­graph­ers” and tells view­ers to urge her to “get tough on convicted crim­in­als.”  The ad is sponsored by a Virginia-based group, the Law Enforce­ment Asso­ci­ation of Amer­ica. Published reports have linked this group to the National Rifle Asso­ci­ation and the U.S. Cham­ber of Commerce. The group has previ­ously bought air time in judi­cial races in Missis­sippi (in 2002 and 2008) and Pennsylvania (in 2001).  A 2008 ad sponsored by the LEAA was pulled from TV stations in Missis­sippi after it was denounced as mislead­ing by a state commit­tee on judi­cial campaign conduct.


Iowa for Free­dom contin­ues its attack on the three incum­bent Iowa Supreme Court Justices who are sitting for reten­tion this fall. This negat­ive ad — the group’s second ad this elec­tion cycle to attack the justices for their votes to strike down Iowa’s ban on same-sex marriage — claims that “none of the freedoms we hold dear are safe from judi­cial activ­ism.” These ads are typical of the kind of attack ads that have become preval­ent in judi­cial elec­tions over the last ten years — and which are increas­ingly paid for by polit­ical parties and outside special interest groups rather than judi­cial candid­ates them­selves. (In 2008, these groups paid for 87% of all negat­ive ads in judi­cial races.)Iowa for Free­dom is affil­i­ated with two national conser­vat­ive groups, the Amer­ican Family Asso­ci­ation and National Organ­iz­a­tion for Marriage (“NOM”), which have been active in oppos­ing gay marriage. NOM repor­ted spend­ing $235,000 in Septem­ber for the first ad run by Iowa for Free­dom, and on Tues­day, Octo­ber 19th, NOM repor­ted that it is spend­ing $200,000 for this second ad.



A.G. Sulzber­ger, Ouster of Iowa Judges Sends Signal to Bench,New York Times, Novem­ber 3, 2010.

Edit­or­ial, Firing Judges, Wash­int­gon Post, Novem­ber 5, 2010.

Kate Moser, Panel of Judges Eval­u­ates the Threat of Elec­tions, Current Polit­ical Climate, Legal Pad, Octo­ber 14, 2010.

Our view on judi­cial inde­pend­ence: Judges face repris­als for unpop­u­lar rulings, USA Today, Octo­ber 19, 2010. 



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 estim­ates 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. Cost estim­ates are revised by Kantar Media/CMAG when it receives updated data, result­ing in some fluc­tu­ations in the repor­ted ad spend­ing.