Justice at Stake, a national nonprofit that monitors judicial races, is continuing to analyze record-breaking spending in the elections for Arkansas Supreme Court.

Its latest conclusion, based on an analysis of FCC records, is that TV ad contracts alone now total $1,011,105, almost all of which is devoted to the race for chief justice between Circuit Judge Dan Kemp and Associate Justice Courtney Goodson. An out-of-state dark money group, the Judicial Crisis Network, has bought hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of ads to defeat Goodson in that contest.


(Note that the Justice at Stake analysis concerns television ad buys alone — not radio, newspapers, web ads, direct mail, yard signs, etc. I noted last week that total expenditures in the race have already surpassed $1 million when all spending is accounted for.)

“The new total is more than double the previous TV record of $450, 320 (also for two seats), which was set in 2010, according to estimates by Kantar Media/CMAG,” Justice at Stake said today.


The full press release is below, but first take a second to view Goodson’s latest ad, above.

Courtney Goodson is now buying TV ads attacking Dan Kemp for benefiting from special interest-bankrolled TV ads which attacked Goodson for benefiting from campaign donations from special interests. Who’s ready to vote?


Here’s the cherry on top: An “Endorsed by the NRA” logo pops up as Goodson looks into the camera and warns of “a shady interest group from Washington trying to bully your vote.”

“Kemp refuses to kick them out of Arkansas,” she says in the last seconds of the ad. “He benefits from every dollar they spend. If Dan Kemp cannot stand up to dark money” — cue NRA logo blossoming on the bottom of the screen — “how will he ever stand up for you?”

Here’s more on Goodson’s strange endorsement from the National Rifle Association.

TV Spending in Arkansas Supreme Court Race Passes $1 Million Mark

WASHINGTON, DC, Feb.22, 2016 – With Election Day just over one week away, total spending on TV ad contracts in Arkansas’ Supreme Court race has passed the $1 million mark. According to an analysis of public FCC records by Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice, the figure now stands at $1,011,105 (for two seats). The new total is more than double the previous TV record of $450, 320 (also for two seats), which was set in 2010, according to estimates by Kantar Media/CMAG.

Attorney Clark Mason became the latest candidate to jump into the ad race, with TV contract bookings totaling at least $51,785 in recent days, according to FCC records. Mason is competing against Circuit Judge Shawn Womack for an Associate Justice seat. Womack has not booked any television time, according to records.

The race for Chief Justice continues to be the more expensive and contentious, with TV ad contracts bought by the conservative Judicial Crisis Network totaling at least $604,405, according to FCC files. JCN ads oppose Associate Justice Courtney Goodson, who is battling Circuit Judge Dan Kemp in the race for the Chief Justice seat. Judge Kemp has booked TV ad contracts totaling at least $66,910, according to records. Goodson’s campaign has booked TV contracts worth at least $288,005. Ads may be viewed on the Brennan Center’s “Buying Time” website.

Totals are current as of 8 a.m. CT, Feb. 22.

“Arkansas continues to see skyrocketing spending by interest groups in this Supreme Court race,” said Susan Liss, Executive Director of Justice at Stake, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that advocates for fair courts and tracks judicial election spending. “It’s a real problem for voters who get no information about who these groups are, or what courtroom decisions they hope to influence by spending big money.”

“The fact that television spending this year is more than twice the previous state record really speaks to how important ads continue to be in judicial elections,” said Alicia Bannon, senior counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program and a co-author of Bankrolling the Bench, a comprehensive report on spending in the 2013-14 judicial elections by Justice at Stake, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the National Institute on Money in State Politics. “As judges face pressure to act like politicians, their campaigns are increasingly looking like ordinary politics.”

Disclosures are not yet available for some additional spending by outside groups in the race. Direct mail campaigns are being conducted by both JCN and the Republican State Leadership Committee targeting Justice Goodson. The RSLC has been a major player in state judicial elections since it launched its Judicial Fairness Initiative in 2014, according to Bankrolling the Bench.

According to state disclosure forms, the candidates themselves have reported raising a total of $666,857 as follows:

Kemp: $281,451

Goodson : $221,155

Mason: $67,836

Womack: $96,415