Buying Time 2004: Television Advertising Ramps Up In State Supreme Court General Elections

September 22, 2004

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Contact Information:
Natalia Kennedy, 212 998-6736

BUYING TIME 2004: Television Advertising Ramps Up in State Supreme Court General Elections

New York, NY—During the 2004 election season, the Brennan Center for Justice is releasing weekly real-time reports on television advertising in state Supreme Court elections. These reports, to be released every Wednesday through November 10, will analyze campaign advertising by candidates, political parties, and interest groups.

This report includes information from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia. Elections are complete in Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Oregon. The report provides information about who is advertising and how often, the estimated cost of the airtime, and the tone and content of those advertisements.

Cumulative Report Through September 19, 2004

Ohio Joins Ranks of States with General Election Advertising: Ads for candidates in state Supreme Court general elections have now aired in three states: West Virginia, which saw ads as early as August 25, Louisiana (see below), and Ohio. In Ohio, a single interest group spent almost as much in four days more than $110,000 as the two West Virginia advertisers spent over more than three weeks. Spending in Ohio is now at an estimated $470,000, more than 27 times the level of airtime expenditures at this time in 2002. West Virginia challenger Brent Benjamin and an interest group calling itself For the Sake of the Kids have now spent an estimated $134,000 on general election ads attacking incumbent Justice Warren McGraw, bringing the West Virginia total up to nearly $790,000.

Louisiana Closes Elections with $88,375 in Television Advertising: Louisiana saw advertising in Supreme Court elections for the first time this year, with two competing candidates running a total of nine distinct ads in less than three weeks. On September 18, incumbent Republican Justice Jeffrey Victory won re-election after outspending his Democratic opponent, Judge Stephen Beasley, $60,000 to $28,000. ?Yet again, spending is correlated with winning Supreme Court elections, noted Deborah Goldberg, Democracy Program Director at the Brennan Center for Justice. &#x201ccandidates observing this trend cannot help but feel pressure to raise the large sums necessary for television advertising. But that fundraising erodes the publics confidence in the judiciary.

Spending on Television Airtime Higher in Partisan Elections: Of the 10 states that have seen advertising this year, half hold partisan elections: Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana, Ohio,1 and West Virginia. This years spending on television advertising in states with partisan elections has exceeded that in nonpartisan races by a measure of $3,309,993 to $1,145,158. The pattern is consistent with fundraising trends we have seen in Supreme Court elections over the past decade.

Reports (Data Current Through September 19, 2004)

West Virginia


The Brennan Centers analyses of television advertising in state Supreme Court elections use data obtained from a commercial firm that records each ad via satellite. The firm provides information about the location, dates, frequency, and estimated costs of each ad. Brennan Center researchers use the storyboards video captures of the ad at four-second intervals, with complete audio text to code the ads, documenting the content, tone, and other relevant information. Cost estimates are revised by the firm when it receives updated data, resulting in some fluctuations in the reported costs. The calculation does not include the costs of design and production, so cost estimates substantially understate the actual cost of advertising.

For More Information

Buying Time 2004 reports, including links to the storyboards, are available at: The reports will also be included in the Justice at Stake 2004 Supreme Court Elections Real Time Tracking Project ( along with information about candidate fundraising and special interest activity.

For more information, please contact Natalia Kennedy at the Brennan Center at 212-998-6736 or visit The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law develops and implements a non-partisan agenda of scholarship, public education, and legal action that promotes equality and human dignity, while safeguarding fundamental freedoms.

For additional information about the Center’s work to promote fair and impartial courts, please visit: Fair Courts.

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, founded in 1995, unites thinkers and advocates in pursuit of a vision of inclusive and effective democracy. Its mission is to develop and implement an innovative, nonpartisan agenda of scholarship, public education, and legal action that promotes equality and human dignity, while safeguarding fundamental freedoms.
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