The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Special Interests Top Spenders on Supreme Court Political Ads

by Catherine Komp

Oct. 18, 2006 – A study analyzing special-interest funding of this year’s political campaigns has found that pro-business groups are the biggest spenders on television ads for state Supreme Court races across the country.

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The Brennan Center for Justice and the Justice at Stake Campaign, two public-interest watchdogs, say much of the advertising is cloaked as values-based, instead of disclosing the economic interests of the groups paying for the ads.

The top spender in Supreme Court races, the American Taxpayers Alliance (ATA), bought an estimated $993,080 in TV ads in Alabama’s Republican primary last June, according to the Brennan Center. Public-interest group Public Citizen states that while ATA refuses to disclose its funding sources, the group’s 2002 tax form, which it provided to Public Citizen, stated its top contributor was the US Chamber of Commerce.

The Brennan Center purchased the data from TNS-Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, a media-research company which tracks advertising in the top 100 broadcast markets. The dollar figures are estimates based on average costs of TV ads for the markets in which they aired.

In one of the ATA-sponsored ads that ran before the June primaries, the narrator attacks Republican candidate Judge Tom Parker for a supposed connection to "liberal trial lawyers" and talks about "conservative" and "family" values as a young woman is pictured holding a baby. In another ad, supporting incumbent Supreme Court Justice and Republican Lyn Stuart, the narrator discusses protecting "victims, children and our families" and "pro-family principles."

The Partnership for Ohio’s Future, which is affiliated with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, spent about $874,396 on two commercials, according to the Brennan Center. One, endorsing incumbent Republican Justice Terry O’Donnell, states that the judicial candidate "knows a fair and balanced judiciary means more jobs," and the other, in support of Republican Judge Robert Cupp, emphasizes Ohio’s motto: "With God, All Things Are Possible."

A Washington State political action committee called It’s Time for a Change spent $521,131 on two TV ads denouncing incumbent Justice Gerry Alexander, according to the Brennan Center’s analysis of the data.

The others making the list of the top five spenders this year were the two judicial candidates in Alabama: incumbent Chief Justice Drayton Nabers and his opponent Sue Bell Cobb.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Catherine Komp is a contributing journalist.

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