Supreme Court Television Advertising Drops With Only Three Weeks Left Before Election

For Immediate Release

Brennan Center for Justice and Justice at Stake
Contact: 

James Sample of the Brennan Center, 212-992-8648 (james.sample@nyu.edu)
Charlie Hall of Justice at Stake, 202-588-9454 (chall@justiceatstake.org)

Supreme Court Television Advertising Drops With Only Three Weeks Left Before Election

NEW YORK - With
three weeks to go before the general election in November, spending on
television advertising in Supreme Court campaigns fell sharply last
week, said two national watchdog groups.  Nationwide candidates and
interest groups spent $552,465 on television advertising, compared with
$1,048,164 the week before. 

By contrast, in 2004, the last Presidential election year, spending
greatly increased in that time period.  Between October 4 and October
10 candidates, interest groups, and political parties spent more than
$1.5 million on television advertising.  The previous week they had
spent $683,240.

Supreme Court Adverstising in 2004 and 2008 According to TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group


This year's drop in advertising is attributable to decreases in two
states, Louisiana and Ohio.  Between September 27 and October 3,
leading up to the October 4 primary elections, candidates and interest
groups in Louisiana spent $286,410 on television advertising.  In the
week after the primary, spending dropped to a mere $2,217.  In Ohio the
reason for the sudden decrease is less clear.  Two weeks ago one
candidate, Justice Evelyn Stratton, and one interest group, The
Partnership for Ohio's Future, an arm of the Chamber of Commerce, spent
a total of $441,770.  Last week that figure plummeted to $38,348.  The
Partnership significantly decreased its advertising, dropping from
spending $367,283 to just $5,048.

Overall spending may be lower this year than previous years because
several states with histories of expensive, highly contentious
elections have no contested Supreme Court elections this year.  In
Illinois, where in 2004 candidates, interest groups, and political
parties set the record for spending on television advertising at more
than $6.8 million, this year Justice Anne Burke is running unopposed
for the only elected position open.  Similarly, in Georgia, where
candidates and interest groups spent more than $2.8 million on
television advertising in one hotly contested race in 2006, this year
both seats on the bench are uncontested.

One state with a history of contentious, expensive races, however, is
continuing the trend this year.  Last week candidates in Alabama broke
the $1 million mark, spending a total of $1.3 million on television
advertising since the start of the campaign
This week, there have been dueling ads in the Alabama campaign. After a
Virginia-based  group, the Center for Individual Freedom, aired an ad
praising Shaw, Paseur ran an ad showing a Virginia building purported
to house oil and gas lobbyists, asking why they are spending on an
Alabama election. 

The new Alabama ads can be accessed at the Brennan Center's "Buying Time 2008" page.

In response to the campaign's increasingly edgy tone, Alabama State Bar
President J. Mark White has asked both candidates to meet with the
state's judicial campaign conduct committee.

"The state of Alabama is blessed to have in Mark White, a State Bar
President who is one of the premier national leaders on matters
pertaining to the fairness of the courts.  Hopefully, in the last weeks
of the campaign, the candidates will accept his invitation, and conduct
the campaign in a manner consistent with the dignity of the office they
are seeking," said James Sample, counsel at the Brennan Center.

"The public rightly fears that special-interest money affects courtroom
decisions, so it's no surprise when gifts become a campaign issue,"
said Charlie Hall, a spokesman for the Justice at Stake Campaign in
Washington. "At the same time, it's important that candidates campaign
in a way that promotes respect for the courts. Implying that an
opponent might be for sale is fairly harsh."

The race also was heating up in Mississippi, where candidates have
raised a total of more than $2 million on four Supreme Court races,
including two in which sitting justices are facing stiff challenges.

According to a Jackson Clarion-Ledger article, Chief Justice Jim Smith has raised $460,034.92, but his opponent Jim Kitchens has raised $470,702.

Justice Oliver Diaz,  has raised $128,740.50. His challenger, Randy "Bubba" Pierce, has raised $182,315.70.

Data on TV spending in the race will not be available until next week, but another Clarion-Ledger article
said that "Political action committees are spending more on
advertisements for those running for the state Supreme Court than any
of those actually seeking the office."

According to the article, Mississippians for Economic Progress, an
organization dedicated to tort reform, had spent heavily on ads
praising Smith.
 

Methodology

The Brennan Center's analyses of television advertising in state
Supreme Court elections use data obtained from a commercial firm, TNS
Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group ("CMAG"), which
records each ad via satellite.  CMAG provides information about the
location, dates, frequency, and estimated costs of each ad, as well as
storyboards. Cost estimates are refined over time and do not include
the costs of design and production.  As a result, cost estimates
substantially understate the actual cost of advertising.

 

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