Wrapping up this week’s Wisconsin Supreme Court election, the Associated Press relied on an analysis by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice to report that candidates and outside groups spent at least $4.3 million in the race.
Incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley, who earlier was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker to fill a vacancy on the court, won election over Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg for a full term on the court. You can read details about the spending breakdown from Gavel Grab.
A blog of The American Prospect, meanwhile, reported that “dark money groups poured more than $2 million into the race.” It continued, “The dark money-fueled ad war gave the race an ugly undertone. The lion’s share of outside spending came from the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, a conservative group with ties to Walker and the Koch brothers that has been at the center of many controversial state political battles in recent years.” Read more
Voters will choose on Tuesday between appointed, incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley and Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg for a full term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Because the state’s presidential primary races also will be decided, voter turnout in the judicial election may be higher than usual.
An Associated Press article said the race between Bradley, appointed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, and Kloppenburg, widely seen as more liberal in her judicial philosophy, “has had a highly partisan tone in keeping with the court’s increased polarization in recent years.” And that is despite the official nonpartisan process of the election, the AP said.
Its article also cited TV ad tracking data from Justice at Stake: “In this race, the Greater Wisconsin Committee has spent about $265,000 so far on pro-Kloppenburg ads and the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform has spent about $1.2 million on TV ads to help Bradley, according to an analysis of Federal Communications Commission records by campaign watchdog group Justice at Stake.”
With a contentious race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court nearing its end, a lengthy Madison.com article examines the way the court’s reputation has declined as its elections have been marked by big spending and political brawling.
“The Wisconsin Supreme Court is seen as broken now. It think it’s fair to say its reputation is dysfunctional,” said Matthew Menendez of the Brennan Center for Justice. It is a Justice at Stake partner organization.
The election process for Supreme Court justices now “is almost like electing a representative court,” said former Justice Janine Geske. “I think people lose faith that the court is anything but a political machine and if people don’t respect the judicial process, the whole of the judiciary as checks and balances on the government, and protection of rights [is lost].” Read more
As Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg bids for the second time in the past five years for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the spotlight is once again more on someone else, this time incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley, according to The Associated Press.
“Kloppenburg … has been largely defined in both races by attack ads coming from conservative groups supporting her rivals. Kloppenburg’s strategy this time has been to emphasize Bradley’s ties to [Gov. Scott] Walker, but her success on April 5 may depend on whether she’s done enough to define herself, received enough support from liberal groups and capitalized enough on Bradley’s troubles,” the AP said. Bradley, who was appointed by Walker, is seeking election to a full term.
The AP quoted data from Justice at Stake about TV about spending in the contest so far. The Wisconsin Alliance for Reform has purchased TV ad contracts totaling about $1.2 million in support of Bradley, compared to about $196,000 in TV air time purchased by the incumbent’s campaign; meanwhile the Greater Wisconsin Committee has spent about $265,000 for ads in support of Kloppenburg, and her campaign, about $223,000 in TV advertising time.
Another outside group has joined the TV ad wars in the Wisconsin Supreme Court contest between Justice Rebecca Bradley and Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg. The Greater Wisconsin Committee, a left-leaning group, has purchased TV ad contracts totaling at least $265,275, Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice said on Thursday.
Another group that already has spent money for TV advertising, the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, now has booked ad contracts for the general election totaling at least $804,170, the groups said. It has aired advertising critical of Kloppenburg. With both of the candidates’s campaigns also advertising on TV, total ad contract spending in the general election has climbed to at least $1,488,046, and for the entire cycle, at least $2.2 million.
“The Greater Wisconsin Committee is a familiar player in the state’s long-running judicial election battles,” said Susan Liss, JAS Executive Director. “With two outside spenders now ratcheting up the TV ad wars, this election is going into the history books as another costly, attack-heavy contest that drags both the Court and the candidates through the mud.” Read more
In a debate on Wednesday, Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg supported the idea of returning to public financing of judicial campaigns in the state, while candidate Rebecca Bradley, an appointed incumbent seeking a full term, was skeptical.
Court of Appeals Judge Kloppenburg said public financing would spare judicial candidates having to raise campaign money from private donors, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Justice Bradley said a Supreme Court race in 2011, when public financing was permitted, demonstrated that it gives “an even more outsized voice for third-party interests.”
It was the last debate before the April 5 election. Kloppenburg accused the incumbent of an ethics lapse when she publicly discussed a case in which there is a pending motion for reconsideration. Bradley rejected the allegation and fired back by accusing Kloppenburg of hypocrisy given her remarks about occasions when judges should recuse themselves and her own record.
As Election Day for Wisconsin’s Supreme Court race nears, both candidates are facing scrutiny over rulings in past cases, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The Journal-Sentinel reports that Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg’s rulings in favor of defendants in four Court of Appeals cases have drawn criticism, while Justice Bradley has been criticized “because she has ruled on few cases the public can review.”
Meanwhile, a Wisconsin Public Radio report on “Where the money is going” in the Supreme Court race highlights the prevalence of outside spending by the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform. The report includes an interactive map showing how the Alliance’s TV ad spending has dominated major media markets in the state. The Alliance’s advertising has supported Justice Bradley. Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice are tracking ad spending in the race and noted most recently that total TV spending by all sides had reached nearly $1.3 million, with three weeks to go before Election Day.
In advance of the Wisconsin Supreme Court election April 5, TV advertising in the contest has ramped up quickly, with contract buys for the general election reaching at least $573,145 so far, Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice said on Wednesday.
Here are the general election totals so far for ad purchasing: incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley, at least $79,885; Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, at least $47,280; and the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, booking ads opposing Kloppenburg, at least $445,980.
When added to TV ad purchases for the earlier primary, total TV spending to date is at least $1,296,745.
“While candidates are jumping into the fray with their own TV ads, this Supreme Court election remains dominated by outside spending,” said JAS Executive Director Susan Liss. “We’ve also seen the emergence of crime-themed ads and attack ads, which are all too common in judicial elections nationwide. Unfortunately, Wisconsinites are likely to get a heavy dose of these themes before Election Day.” Read more
When two rivals for a Wisconsin Supreme Court seat debated this week, each vowed to serve as an independent justice. Each also named U.S. Supreme Court justices she would identify with most from a philosophical viewpoint.
Appointed Justice Rebecca Bradley named Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas plus the late Justice Antonin Scalia, according to Madison.com, and Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg named Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, plus Justice Anthony Kennedy. Read more
Wisconsin appears headed toward another costly and fierce Supreme Court election. With the election set for April 5, the conservative Wisconsin Alliance for Reform has purchased new TV advertising contracts worth at least $369,970, Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice said on Tuesday.
The same group ran TV ads supporting incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley in the primary held last month. She faces Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg in the general election.
“This is a huge red flag telling us that when it’s all over, Wisconsin is going to have another very expensive and contentious Supreme Court election cycle this year,” said JAS Executive Director Susan Liss. “The pace was set in the primary, and this new round of spending on the general election could fuel an ad war on all sides that hurts confidence in the courts and does a terrible disservice to voters.” Read more