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National Special Interest Groups Spending More On State Judicial Elections


Joyce supported report finds that 43% of campaign contributions come from non-candidate groups.

National special interest groups are injecting more money in state judicial elections than ever before, according to a Joyce-supported analysis of the 2011-12 campaign contributions by Justice At Stake, Brennan Center for Justice and the National Institute on Money in State Politics. The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2011-12:  How New Waves of Special Interest Spending Raised the Stake for Fair Courts confirmed that outside funding has increased significantly since the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Watch: Justice At Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg discusses key findings.

Among the report’s central findings:

  • 43% of funds spent on state high court elections came from non-candidate groups, which include political parties
  • Super PACs and other outside groups funneled big spending into some state judicial elections for the first time.
  • 35% of all funds spent on state high court races came from just 10 deep-pocketed special interest groups or political parties
  • $33.7 million, a new record, was spent on supreme court campaign TV ads, far exceeding the previous record of $26.6 million in 2007-08. The high-cost of TV ads increase the demand for large campaign contributions, likely to come from special-interest groups.

The Joyce Democracy program supports efforts to balance the influence of money in politics and keep judicial selection fair. The election of state judges has become increasingly partisan and expensive. Although 9 out of 10 state judges are elected in the U.S., low voter turnout – sometimes barely above 10% – can give undue influence to well-financed and powerful interest groups.

Joyce has partnered with Justice At Stake to conduct in-depth, nonpartisan analysis  of campaign contributions for state high court elections in the Great lakes region. The organization’s research has been used to make the case to change the way judicial elections are funded.

Learn more about Justice At Stake’s work.

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