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Judicial Election Spending Breaks Records with Boost from Super PAC Cash

Posted Nov 20, 2012 7:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Critics are decrying record spending on state judicial elections and the role of super PACs in the process.

Spending on TV ads for supreme court races reached $28 million by Election Day, surpassing the previous record of $24.4 million spent in 2004, according to a New York Times editorial citing statistics from the Brennan Center for Justice and Justice at Stake. More than 50 percent of the ads were funded by groups not connected to the candidates.

In Michigan, spending on judicial campaigns is estimated at about $15 million; 75 percent of the amount can’t be traced to identifiable donors, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

The Times says the trends could be addressed by replacing judicial elections with merit selection. States with elections should revise judicial recusal rules to take contributions into account, the newspaper says, and should require disclosure of all donations to judicial candidates.

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