Adding to the seeming infinite ways that the Citizens United case is destroying our democracy, is a story in today’s Washington Post called “Super PACs, donors turn sights on judicial branch.” Roy Schotland, a “Georgetown University law professor and expert on judicial elections,” succinctly sums it up: “[S]tate judicial races are increasingly becoming ‘floating auctions,’ in which special-interest groups focus money and manpower in states where they can upend judges they don’t like. ‘The justices are like sitting ducks,’ he said.”
Check out the coverage of an Orlando fundraising event where three Florida Supreme Court justices were “sipping water and shaking hands in the ballroom” after “decid[ing] months ago that they needed to campaign early and hard. … ‘We should not have to go around and have our friends and committees collecting money,’ Justice Peggy Quince added. ‘We don’t want to get caught up in those kinds of things. … We want our system to continue without the politics.’”
And yet, thanks to Citizen’s United, forcing justices to campaign and beg for money just to remain on the bench may not be enough. Writes the Post,
Judicial races have been attractive to donors in the past in part because of their relative obscurity. The contests often draw little public scrutiny, voters rarely know the names on the ballots, and backing them is cheaper than trying to buy an entire state legislature. “It’s the single best investment in American politics,” said Charles Hall, spokesman for Justice at Stake. “A few big spenders can really have an outsize effect.”
The article goes on to talk about the 2010 study of 29 judicial races by Justice at Stake, which “found that the top five spenders averaged $473,000 apiece” but “loopholes in disclosure laws gave those big donors ways to spend money ‘in substantial secrecy.’ …”
The mere possibility that a rich benefactor or interest group with endless amounts of money could swoop in, write massive checks and remake an entire court for ideological reasons has prompted judges here in Florida and elsewhere to prepare for battles they never expected to fight.…
Elsewhere – that would include states like Texas. In fact, The Texas Tribune today is covering the same problem in Texas, which is also “one of seven states that holds partisan elections for judges.”
“We have a judiciary at the highest level, the Texas Supreme Court, that gets 40 to 50 percent of its campaign money from the very people who are practicing before that court,” said Craig McDonald, head of Texans for Public Justice, a follow-the-money political watchdog.… “Our judges act as if they're politicians,” he said. “They run on partisan ballots, they raise money, they get elected on partisan ballots. They're more politicians then they are judges in many respects."
Don’t believe him? Check out the embarrassing ad run by former Texas Rep. Rick Green, during his campaign for Texas Supreme Court in 2010. (“Hey, friends. I have some earth-shattering news for you. First of all, this campaign is now Chuck Norris approved. And secondly, we've got our money bomb today.”) He lost. But the debasement lingers.