Spending Figures Reveal Sickness in High Court Race

In this update: 1. Supreme Court campaign a special interest monologue 2. Truth testing the campaign advertising 3. A way out of the madness Spending Figures Reveal Sickness in High Court Race

Email date: 3/25/08

In this update:
1. Supreme Court campaign a special interest monologue
2. Truth testing the campaign advertising
3. A way out of the madness

Ideally, election campaigns are supposed to be dialogues between candidates and voters. In this year’s Supreme Court race, communication has flowed only one way . . . and for the most part it hasn’t come from either candidates or voters.

One lobbying group and three shadowy front groups have done almost all of the talking. By the middle of March, estimated spending by these four groups passed the $1.8 million mark. All but a tiny fraction of that total was spent between February 20 and March 16. By contrast, campaign finance reports covering activity from February 5 through March 17 shows incumbent Justice Louis Butler spent $244,710 and challenger Michael Gableman spent $114,606.

Neither of the candidates will come close to spending as much as Annette Ziegler and Linda Clifford spent in last year’s high court election. But the interest groups are on a pace to spend much more than they did last time. And the four groups that have been battling it out are about to be joined by others, including the state’s biggest teachers union, which has signaled its intention to spend close to $350,000 to help Butler.

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The University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center is doing Wisconsin voters a considerable service by fact-checking the campaign advertising in the state Supreme Court race. The latest installment of this series evaluates two recent TV ads and one radio ad.

Overall, the Annenberg Center has found the advertising highly suspect. But it only scratches the surface of how the ads mislead. That’s the subject of our latest Big Money Blog.

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It doesn’t have to be this way. That’s the point the Democracy Campaign’s director made in a commentary that was published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this past Sunday.