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TV Ad Tally in Wisconsin Supreme Court Primary Tops $723,000

February 17, 2016

 TV Ad Tally in Wisconsin Supreme Court Primary Tops $723,000

Spending, Advertising Could Explode in General Election to Follow
Contact: Laurie Kinney, lkinney@justiceatstake.org, (202) 588-9454; cell (571) 882-3615

WASHINGTON, DC, Feb.17, 2016 – A final tally of television ad spending in the Wisconsin Supreme Court primary shows TV ad contracts topped out at $723,600 according to an analysis of public FCC records by Justice at Stake.

The two top finishers in the race, incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley and State Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, will face each other in the April 5 general election. Judge Kloppenburg spent $139,000 on television ad contracts according to FCC files, while Justice Bradley’s campaign spent no money on television ads.  However, her candidacy received support from $442,095 in broadcast TV advertising spent by an independent group, the Wisconsin Alliance for Reform.  Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Joe Donald, who booked $142,505 worth of TV ad contracts according to FCC records, finished third and will not advance to the general election.

“This money-soaked primary sets a disturbing pace, and Wisconsinites should beware,” said Susan Liss, Executive Director of Justice at Stake, a nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for fair courts and tracks judicial election spending. “High election spending, harsh ads and campaign controversies hurt public confidence in courts. With research increasingly showing that campaign cash influences court decisions, it’s time to take politics out of how judges are selected.”
The highest documented television spending in a Wisconsin Supreme Court election took place in 2011, in a race in which Judge Kloppenburg ran against incumbent Justice David Prosser. In that race, candidates and outside groups spent an estimated $3.96 million on TV ads. Advertising took a sharply negative turn in the election, with some of the most brutal attack ads seen in the cycle bankrolled by outside groups, according to The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2011-12 by Justice at Stake, the Brennan Center for Justice and the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Reported fundraising by all candidates in the primary has reached $ 949,055, according to state disclosures.

Through February 16, the candidates’ campaigns have reported raising: 

Bradley: $323,292

Donald: $290,336

Kloppenburg: $335,427


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