(California Commission on Campaign Financing-1995)
Report was written by the California Commission on Campaign Financing, a
private, non-profit organization formed in 1984. Focus of the report was 1976
to 1994. The Commission interviewed dozens of judges, campaign consultants and
academic experts and examined literature on judicial elections.
At time of report, Los Angeles County was home of 9.2 million people, 3.6
million registered voters.
The Commission identified four problems:
· The controversial races create pressure to raise more money.
The Commission made the following findings:
· Candidates are forced to solicit campaign contributions from lawyers and
· Candidates are the largest contributors to the campaigns, leaving them in
· Given the scale of the voting population, candidates lack sufficient money to
inform the voters of their merits. Given the nature of the judicial elections,
voters lack clues to gage the merits of individual candidates, such as party
affiliations, committee assignments, voting records, press releases or policy
· Incumbents easily donate spending and win nearly every time. In the
Superior Court contest between 1988-1994, incumbents outspent challengers
$55,000 to $29,000 in median expenditures. In the same period, municipal court
winners spent a median amount of $48,000, compared to $18,000 for losers.
The Commission made the following recommendations:
· 1976 median expenditure by a superior court candidate was about $3,000. By.
1994, the figure was $70,000. Median incumbent spending jumped 95 fold, from
just over $1,000 in 1976 to nearly $95,000 in 1994.
· 46% of total campaign dollars raised in Los Angeles County superior court
races comes from the candidates' own purses.
· 45% of total outside contributions come from attorneys.
· Contributions to any one judicial candidate from individuals, corporations,
labor unions, organizations, and PACs should be limited to $500 per
· Judicial candidates should all be given a conditional right to print a free
statement in the official countywide voters' pamphlet .
77 Judicature 294(1994)
Marlene Arnold Nicholson and Norman Nicholson
Authors studied funding for judicial races from 1980 to 1990, comparing
selected data from recent supreme, appellate, and trial court elections to an
earlier comprehensive study of the 1980 through 1984 elections.
The study made the following findings:
· Many judicial elections in Illinois are not real contests. Often, candidates
who could not lose received the most contributions. Similarly, candidates sure
to lose but sitting as judges at the time of the contribution also received
· Small number of candidates raising funds in retention elections suggests
fundraising practices for such elections do not currently raise substantial
· Unlike the retention campaigns, partisan elections of supreme court and
appellate judges involved active fundraising. All but one of 12 candidates
between 1980 and 1990 reported raising funds, with the highest sums being just
under $200,000. There was a modest increase in contributions to successful
appellate campaigns from approximately $36,000 in 1984 to $40,000 in 1990.
· In 1988, candidates unopposed in both primary and general elections raised an
average of $17,225. Some of this fundraising occurred before the filing
deadline--when the candidate did not know if there would be opposition.
· In the general elections, more was contributed where only one party had a
realistic opportunity to win than where elections were more contested. This
included "sure winners" and also included "sure losers" who were sitting as
judges at the time of the solicitation.
· Attorneys were the largest single source of contributions for nearly all
Judicial campaigns, with higher proportions in the retention elections.
Contributions in excess of $1000 were extremely rare.
Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (1996).
Public Resources Council of Louisiana, Inc. (PAR) examined all judicial
elections at the district court level and above from 1990 to 1994 and closely
analyzed individual contributions for four selected races.
The study made the following findings:
· 61% of Louisiana judges win election without voter approval. Under Louisiana
law, an unopposed candidate automatically wins, and the candidate's name simply
does not appear on the ballot.
The study made the following recommendations:
· 78° of contested elections were won by the contestant who spent the most
money. The average winner spent $438,000 for the supreme court, $194,000 for
the court of appeal, and $77,000 for the district court. On average winners
spent 70% more and incurred 75% more debt: than their closest challengers.
· Winning judges often end elections with large campaign debts. As of February
1995 winning candidates from 1990-1994 with debt had an average outstanding
debt of $47,081--ranging from $1,184 to $373,800. Losing candidates had average
debt of $27,260. Several judges were still soliciting contributions three years
after the campaign. On average, more than 60% of debt was personal loans from
the candidate to the campaign.
· Judicial incumbents were rarely challenged (less than 20%) or defeated
· In three of the four closely scrutinized campaigns, lawyers provided
approximately two-thirds of the contributions. The winners of three of the four
received a majority of lawyer contributions in their races. The
exception was the 1994 Supreme Court election, which received considerable
attention in medical and business groups.
· About half the lawyers contributing were plaintiffs' lawyers, but they gave
about 63% of the amount contributed by lawyers.
· Plaintiffs' lawyers provided about 40% of the total contributions to all
candidates from all sources in the four elections.
· Identifiable contributions from non-lawyer PACs, business and the medical
profession ranged from about 14% to 30% of funding for all candidates.
· Adopt merit selection of judges, at least for Supreme Court and Court of
· Put all judicial elections on the ballot.
· Limit fundraising period and limit campaign surpluses.
80 Judicature 21 (1996) Traciel V. Reid
Study focused on four North Carolina Supreme Court elections between 1986 and
1994 as vehicle for evaluating participation of PACs in judicial elections.
The study made the following findings:
· PAC involvement in judicial races is increasing for these reasons: elections
are becoming more expensive; states are evolving politically from one party to
two party states, movement of federal responsibilities to states enhances
policy making power of state appellate judges. From 1986 to 1994, the number of
PACs rose from 8 to 29.
· The 1986 election was highly politicized. Republicans focused on the death
penalty and Democrats focused on judicial independence and integrity in
judicial selection. Total contributions to Supreme Court candidates from all
sources was $395,397. PAC contributions made up 4 .5% of total
· 1990 and 1992 campaigns were lower profile. Total contributions from all
sources was $263,404 and $116,516, respectively. PAC contributions amounted to
11% in 1990 and 2.6% in 1992.
· In 1994, a highly publicized campaign was waged for a vacant associate
judgeship. Total contributions from all sources was $514,449, 8.4% of which
came from PACs.
· The biggest PAC contributor to Supreme Court campaigns was the North Carolina
Academy of Trial Lawyers, representing plaintiffs' lawyers. Its typical
contribution was $4,000 and total contributions for the period studied were
· In 1994, business PACs increased in number, and combined to give more
money to their candidates than the trial lawyer PAC.
· Only four law firm PACs funded candidates during the study--for a total of
· PAC strategy is traditionally risk averse--Sanding expected winner, and
tending towards incumbents. This differed in these judicial elections, as in
three of eleven races PACs contributed more to challengers than to incumbents.
This divergence from expected PAC behavior may be explained by the changing
balance of power between the political parties That is, as the Republicans gain
power statewide, Republican judicial candidates, including challengers, will
continue to garner more PAC support.
Citizens Committee on Judicial Elections was established by Chief
Justice Moyer to conduct top-to-bottom review of Ohio's judicial election
system in Spring, 1994. An effort was made for a broad perspective--majority of
Committee were not attorneys. The Committee's .work was premised on underlying
assumption that although judges run for office like other officials, they are
different from other politicians, and are held to a higher standard. The
Committee conducted hearings, commissioned a poll, met with broad array of
experts and interested parties and reviewed research.
The Committee made the following findings:
· Nine out of ten Ohioans believe that judicial decisions are affected by
political contributions, and the public clearly questions the impartiality of a
judge who sits on a case involving a campaign contributor.
The Committee proposed the following reforms of campaign conduct:
· 56% of Ohioans favor spending limits for judicial elections.
· 45% support contribution limits.
· 45% want more reporting requirements.
· 9% favor public financing.
· Compulsory uniform candidate questionnaire concerning candidate
The Committee proposed the following reforms of campaign finance:
· Changes in speech limitations on candidates
· Compulsory campaign ethics training for candidates.
· Encouragement of voluntary campaign monitoring groups.
· Clarification of candidate's ultimate responsibility for the conduct of the
· Expedited and enhanced enforcement and sanctions mechanisms.
· Campaign contribution limits (including in-kind contributions and loans) of
$500 from individuals and $2500 for organizations (doubled for the Supreme
· Imposition of recusal requirement for judges in cases involving attorneys or
parties from whom judge received a significant contribution.
· Limitations on fundraising periods.
· Ban on contributions from court appointees.
· Ban on tiered fundraising events.
· Elimination of campaign surpluses.
· Increased disclosure requirements including full identification of each donor
and rapid reporting in the 20 days before an election.
· Limitations on receipt of funds from political parties.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court appointed this Special Commission to determine
whether public perception of judicial elections had caused a loss of respect
for the judiciary in Pennsylvania and, if so, what if anything might be done by
the Supreme Court to ameliorate this problem. The Special Commission conducted
public hearings, met with officials involved in reform efforts outside
Pennsylvania, and conducted a telephone poll of 500 Pennsylvania citizens
margin of error +/-4.4%.
The Special Commission made the following findings:
· 59% of Pennsylvanian registered voters thought too much was spent on judicial
campaigns. After being informed of amounts actually spent, that figure jumped
The Special Commission made the following recommendations:
· 73% thought judicial candidates received too much from large corporations and
PACs. 66% thought they received too much from wealthy individuals. 64% thought
they received too much from insurance companies and their PACs. 62% thought
they received too much from lawyers and lawyer organizations.
· 88% thought judges' courtroom decisions were influenced at least some of the
time by campaign contributions, 37% thought it was most or all of the time.
· 75% thought people and organizations who can afford to make large
contributions have more influence in electing judges.
· 64% believed that limiting campaign contributions would improve honesty and
integrity in judicial elections.
· 59% strongly favored a $1000 cap contributions to judicial campaigns from
individuals; 61% strongly favored a $5000 limit on contributions from
organizations or PACs.
· 65% strongly favored reporting of contributions over $100.
· 52% strongly favored a spending limit.
· 46% strongly favored public funding for candidates who did not accept
· Voters strongly believe that amount spent on campaigns threatens integrity and
fairness of elections and judicial rulings. Voters believe special interest
contributions dominate ordinary voters. Voters believe the money problem is
growing worse. Voters believe contributors expect and receive something for
· Voters are more anxious about the judiciary than about other elected
· There is little demographic, geographic, or partisan variation in voters'
attitudes on these issues.
· Contribution limits including $1,000/individual, $5,000/legal entity for
· Expenditure limits, including $1,000,000 for Supreme Court office, $500,000
for Superior Court and Commonwealth Court office, and $250,000 for Court of
· Expedited disclosure, accessible on web page designed by the court's
· Mandatory recusal of judges in cases where opposing party or counsel has
contributed above the limits.
· Public education and enforcement enhancements.
17 Crime, Law & Social Change 91 (1992)
Study analyzed financing of the 1988 Texas Supreme Court races--identified as
"probably the most expensive partisan judicial election campaign [dotlessi]n
history." Unusual circumstances led to two-thirds of Texas Supreme Court
justices' seats being at issue in 1988.
The study made the following findings:
· Three of the four elections From 1982 to 1988 involved at least one million
dollar campaign. The 1988 election involved two campaigns each spending more
than two million dollars.
· Total contributions to the 1988 general election's twelve candidates were
$10,092,955. Including unsuccessful primary candidates the total contributions
· The campaigns for the Criminal Court of Appeal involve substantially less
expensive campaigns: a $100,000 race is considered expensive. Most expensive of
these campaigns was $524,137.
· For 1987 and several earlier campaigns, eight Texas firms or lawyers
contributed 17.7% of all funds. All but one of the firms were plaintiffs'
firms. Three contributed over $200,000 each.
· Breadth of support varied. Justice Phillips had the broadest support base,
with only 11.2% of his contributions from his top ten contributors. His
opponent received 22.8% of his contributions from 10 law firms. Others obtained
as much as 31.9% from the top ten contributors. Several candidates received
their largest contributions From their prior law firms.
· The overall top ten contributors to the races contributed $1,414,021 or 13.6%
of all contributions. '
· The top 20 contributors gave 20.7% of the total.
· The top 50 law firms and the Texas Medical Association (TMA) contributed over
one-third of all contributions.
· The Fund for Democratic Texas raised 51.4 million, mostly from plaintiffs'
· The PAC for the TMA gave $181,355. The TMA also encouraged doctors to
contribute directly, which resulted in estimated contributions of $250,000 or
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