The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative Washington D.C.-based political nonprofit, is again spending big to defeat Associate Justice Courtney Goodson in a race for Arkansas Supreme Court.
In 2016, the group poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into TV ads and direct mail opposing Goodson in her bid for the court’s chief justice position. The campaigns of both Goodson and her opponent, Dan Kemp, also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising, making the race the most expensive judicial election in the state’s history. The TV spots alone topped $1 million on both sides.
Goodson lost the chief justice race to Kemp (then a circuit judge from Mountain View) but she retained her position as an associate justice. Now, she’s up for reelection on May 22. Goodson is being challenged by David Sterling, an attorney for the state Department of Human Services, and state Court of Appeals Judge Kenneth Hixson.
Network TV station filings with the Federal Communications Commission show the Judicial Crisis Network has purchased over $160,000 in TV spots in Central Arkansas and Northwest Arkansas over the past few weeks. That number is almost certain to rise in the coming days. And that’s just network TV; it doesn’t include ads that may run on cable TV, radio, the web or print media. Direct mail and other expenditures are also excluded.
As a nonprofit organization, the Judicial Crisis Network is not required to disclose its donors, so there’s no way to tell who’s really behind the ad purchases. (That’s why political 501(c)4 nonprofits like JCN are often called “dark money” groups.) Its commercials are considered “issue ads” rather than direct advocacy. Because they don’t explicitly urge a vote for or against a candidate, they’re exempt from disclosure rules that apply to ads bought by a candidate’s campaign.