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Spending in Arkansas Supreme Court Race Reaches $1.6 Million

March 2, 2016

Spending in Arkansas Supreme Court Race Reaches $1.6 Million 
 

With Data Still Coming In, Judicial Race Is Second Mostly Costly in State History

 

Contact: Laurie Kinney, lkinney@justiceatstake.org, (202) 588-9454; cell (571) 882-3615

WASHINGTON, D.C. March 2 - A post-Election Day tally of documented spending in Arkansas’ 2016 Supreme Court race shows total spending rose to at least $1,600,059.55 in a race for two seats, according to an analysis of state disclosures and television advertising by Justice at Stake. 

In the race for Chief Justice, Circuit Judge Dan Kemp defeated Supreme Court Associate Justice Courtney Goodson, while Circuit Judge Shawn Womack was the victor over attorney Clark Mason in a race for an Associate Justice seat. Both Kemp and Womack outspent their opponents and were helped by significant outside spending as the Judicial Crisis Network booked more than $600,000 on ads targeting Goodson and the Republican State Leadership Committee spent more than $175,000 to air ads attacking Mason.  

While some spending reports are not due until May 2, the figures recorded to date make this the second most costly Supreme Court election in Arkansas history. The record was set in 2010, in a $1,965,962 race that was also for two seats. No independent spending was recorded in the 2010 race, and all spending was attributed to candidates’ campaigns. 

“The high spending, out-of-state money and harsh attack ads we’ve seen in this year’s Arkansas Supreme Court race make it the latest example of some of the worst trends in judicial elections across the U.S.,” said Susan Liss, Executive Director of Justice at Stake, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that advocates for fair courts and tracks judicial election spending. “We know that nearly 9 out of 10 Americans believe that money spent in judicial elections has an effect on courtroom rulings. It’s time for reforms that break the link between special interest money and the way our judges are selected.”

The latest data incorporates state campaign disclosures and publicly available Federal Communications Commission data filed through Election Day. Total TV spending and outside spending records were broken well before Election Day, according to analyses. 

TV ad bookings, according to FCC records, total $1,304,285, breaking the previous record of $450,320 set in 2010. Outside spending reached at least $779,780, which is the total spent to book television advertising by these two outside interest groups in the race, the Judicial Crisis Network and the Republican State Leadership Committee. The actual total for outside spending is likely much higher, however, as outside groups’ spending on activities including direct mail and radio campaigns has yet to be disclosed. Outside spending was first recorded in an Arkansas Supreme Court race in 2014, when it totaled $164,560.

According to FCC records, total TV airtime spending for the campaigns and groups airing ads broke down as follows:

Judicial Crisis Network (advertising against Goodson) $604,405

Courtney Goodson $338,030

Republican State Leadership Committee (advertising against Mason) $175,375

Dan Kemp $107,890

Clark Mason $78,585

Shawn Womack $0

Candidates raised a combined $820,279.55 through Feb. 20, according to the latest publicly filed state campaign disclosures:

Dan Kemp $342,149

Courtney Goodson $267,504.55

Shawn Womack $115,340

Clark Mason $95,286

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