‘Bankrolling the Bench’ Gets Media Attention in States

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 12.24.23 PMA news outlet in still another state included in Bankrolling the Bench: The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2013-14 has featured the report’s findings, at the same time raising concern about “The best justice money can buy.”

An Arkansas Times blog post focused on “dark money TV ads” aired in a 2014 state Supreme Court race. Attorney Tim Cullen was defeated by Court of Appeals Judge Robin Wynne. The Law Enforcement Alliance of America, an outside group, funded advertising attacking Cullen. The ad said Cullen “worked to throw out the sentence of a repeat sexual predator, arguing that child pornography was a ‘victimless crime.’” Cullen retorted that the ad was “a lie.”

Bankrolling the Bench was issued by Justice at Stake, The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, and The National Institute on Money in State Politics. Since its release last week it has gotten news coverage across the country.

An Illinois Public Radio newscast, meanwhile, focused on outside spending — which reached a record high level of 29 percent in judicial elections nationwide during the period, and which was higher in Illinois than in any other state judicial election. Scott Greytak of Justice at Stake, the report’s lead author, said in the newscast that in many states, outside money doesn’t have to be held accountable in the same way as money going to a candidate’s campaign. Greytak also remarked, “Your constitutional rights … shouldn’t be determined at the ballot box.”

Other coverage included Legal News, “Report: Michigan Supreme Court election spending highest in nation”;  Great Falls Tribune, “Supreme Court race subject of study”;  Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, “Report: Karmeier election tops for outside donations”;  The Cap Times, “Wisconsin one of eight states where spending topped $1 million in 2014 Supreme Court race”; and Facing South, “Big money in judicial elections intensifies racial imbalance on the courts.”