Increased spending in state high court races, Michigan tops the list

Oct 27, 2011

A report by the Brennan Center for Justice, the National Institute on Money in State Politics, and the Justice at State Campaign says the outside money being spent in state high court races amounts to a "hostile takeover of judicial elections."

The authors of the report, the New Politics of Judicial Elections 2009-2010, wrote that $16.8 million was spent on television advertising for state high court elections in the 2009-10 election cycle — "making 2009-10 the costliest non-presidential election cycle for TV spending in judicial elections."

According to the report, more television campaign ads for state high court elections ran in Michigan than in any other state during the 2010 election cycle.

10,781 ads ran in Michigan. That total accounts for 29 percent of the total state high court campaign ads to run across the country.

And for total money spent on these campaigns, Michigan is at the top.

From the report:

Michigan, ranked sixth in candidate fundraising, surges to No. 1 when all sources of money, including independent TV ads, are considered.

The Top Ten states by total spending on state high court elections, 2009-2010:

  1. Michigan - $9,243,914
  2. Pennsylvania - $5,424,210
  3. Ohio - $4,437,302
  4. Alabama - $3,538,805
  5. Illinois - $3,477,649
  6. Texas - $2,951,719
  7. Arkansas - $1,965,962
  8. Wisconsin - $1,930,051
  9. Louisiana - $1,499,408
  10. Iowa - $1,414,618

The report's authors write:

While funding for courts continues to fall, the ability of special interests to spend freely on high-court elections, unfettered and in secrecy, will be greater than ever in 2012, given continued court rulings and legislative attacks on campaign finance laws.

The top "super-spenders" in the state of Michigan were the Michigan Republican Party ($4,068,081), and the Michigan Democratic Party ($1,558,164).