You are hereWashington Post: Special-interest spending surges in state Supreme Court campaigns

Washington Post: Special-interest spending surges in state Supreme Court campaigns

August 16, 2010- While Washington politicians argue over the role of money in federal elections, a growing number of states are starting to grapple with their own challenge: a tide of special-interest money flowing into local judicial races.

An exhaustive study scheduled to be released Monday shows that spending on state Supreme Court elections has more than doubled over the past 10 years, to $207 million, mirroring the surge in contributions and expenditures for other kinds of political races during the same period.

The report, produced by a trio of nonpartisan policy groups, found that much of the increase has been fueled by outside groups funding attack ads of the kind commonly found in partisan races for the White House, Congress or governors' mansions. Industry groups, trial lawyers and others are increasingly targeting specific judges for removal over rulings that hurt their financial bottom line, the report shows.

The findings come amid mounting evidence that 2010 is likely to mark a new watershed for spending in a midterm election year. The study also underscores a growing debate in legal and political circles over the influence of campaign money in judicial races, particularly in 22 states where top judges face challengers or 16 others that hold "retention" elections for judges.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has joined her former colleague Sandra Day O'Connor in calling on states to give up the practice of electing judges, arguing that raising campaign money and promising outcomes on the bench is antithetical to a fair judicial system.



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