WASHINGTON – The number of outside interest groups trying to influence state supreme court elections by running political advertisements on television doubled from 2000 to 2002, a report released Thursday said.
In its study, the Justice at Stake Campaign (search), a coalition of 40 groups advocating for an impartial judiciary, found that 10 groups intervened with ads in state judicial races two years ago compared to five groups in the 2000 elections.
Commercials were aired, either by the candidates or interest groups, in nine states in 2002, up from four in 2000.
"No state that elects judges is safe," said Bert Brandenburg (search), deputy director of the coalition, which is concerned about the influence of special-interest money in state supreme court elections. This year, 29 states will hold such races.
The study also found that the amount of money spent on ads correlated strongly with winning in nine of 11 races where TV ads ran.
In 2002, candidates spent $6 million on TV ads, while interest groups allotted $2.2 million. The most money by far was spent in Ohio — $3.7 million by candidates and $1.6 million from interest groups.
The report said television 'air wars' are turning more would-be judges into traditional politicians, as ads routinely suggest how a judge might rule on hot-button social issues like crime, the death penalty and medical malpractice suits.
"We don't want judges making decisions with one eye on the law and the other on special-interest money for the next election," said Deborah Goldberg, co-author of the report.