Courthouse News Service: Money Becoming Ever More Important in State Supreme Court Races
The escalating cost of state Supreme Court campaigns is nothing new. The required expenditures have been rising steadily for years. But in the wake of Citizens United, the 2010 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court held the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for communications by nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations, concerns over the power of money in judicial races has reached a fevered pitch.
Causing the greatest distress is the growing prevalence of so-called “dark money” in state judicial campaigns. Traditionally, candidate-specific groups — the super PACs one hears of every election cycle — are required to disclose donors under federal and many states’ laws.
Other campaign finance reform groups have taken notice of the issue. According to Brendan Fischer, director of federal and FEC reform at the non-partisan campaign finance watchdog group Campaign Legal Center, the influx of dark money could influence legal decisions made by the elected judges without the public knowing a conflict even exists.
“Litigants will have no way of knowing whether opposing parties contributed significantly to the judge’s election through contributions to dark money groups,” he said.