Special interest TV spending in state judicial races has surged nationally, to the tune of $3.3 million for the week of October 21-27, 2010, according to the Justice at Stake Campaign. This puts the state judicial TV spending spree at $13 million for the 2009-2010 election cycle.
Frightening, considering scandals like the 2004 West Virginia election, when the CEO of Massey Coal spent $3 million to help elect Brent Benjamin to the state’s highest court. This is even more alarming considering how the recent Supreme Court decision Citizens United has opened the floodgates for special interest spending, putting the 2010 election on track to be the most expensive election in history.
Spending is already up 40% from 2008 presidential election according to the Campaign Finance Institute, and is expected to grow as spending peaks prior to Election Day.
Fortunately, North Carolina has a system to stop judicial elections from being overtaken by special interest spending. After the state enacted the nation’s first judicial public financing program in 2002, the percent of money from attorneys and litigation-interested PACs went from 73% to the total before the program and 14% after. Voter-Owned Elections or public financing gets to the core problem — the dependency of politicians on private campaign money that all too often come with strings attached.