Total documented spending in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election has climbed to $4,369,787, with outside groups dominating TV ad spending, Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice said on Wednesday.
The winner was Justice Rebecca Bradley (see Gavel Grab). Her campaign benefitted from an estimated $1,851,710 on television ads by the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, and $114,049 in other advertising by the Republican State Leadership Committee. An outside group supporting Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, the Greater Wisconsin Committee, spent $381,360 on television ads and $107,323 on other advertising.
“Once again, we’ve seen a state Supreme Court race in which outside spenders pouring cash into TV ad campaigns have possibly made a significant difference in the outcome,” said JAS Executive Director Susan Liss. “So far 2016 is off to a very rough start, as we’ve seen outside groups spend heavily and succeed in defeating two Supreme Court candidates in Arkansas, with the same thing happening in Wisconsin just weeks later. This doesn’t bode well for the judicial elections ahead this year.”
“Wisconsin is a perfect example of the politicized, high-cost judicial elections we’ve been seeing around the country,” said Alicia Bannon, Senior Counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “The candidates were backed by groups that don’t have to disclose their donors, raising concerns about conflicts of interest and leaving the public in the dark about who is seeking to shape Wisconsin’s courts. In Wisconsin and around the country, campaign finance and judicial recusal rules have not kept pace with how these races are increasingly run.”