In Depth: How Big Business Buys State Courts

Truthout:

More than 90 percent of judicial business in the United States is decided in state courts, and with business interests tangled up in much of the litigation, it’s easy to understand why corporations spend big on state judicial campaigns.

“Special interest groups continue to dump money into state supreme court races in an attempt to stack the deck in their favor,” Bannon said. “Voters should feel like our courts are fair and impartial, not political playgrounds where business interests and lawyers can tilt the scales of justice with their pocketbooks.”

Since January, political parties, outside groups and candidates spent more than $12.1 million on TV ads for state judicial races across the country. In the past week, outside groups spent a total of nearly $1 million on ads in Michigan, Montana, Ohio, North Carolina and Illinois in a last-minute surge before the election.

The 2012 election cycle was the first full cycle since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling that struck down caps on outside corporate campaign spending, and special interest groups spent a record $15.4 million on TV ads for state high court races, nearly half the total spent on those races that year, according to a2013 report by the Brennan Center and other watchdogs.

“Special interest groups have realized that it doesn’t take much money to reshape an entire state court compared to high-cost elections for statewide political offices,” Bannon said.

Last year, the American Constitution Society released analysis of judicial campaign finance data from 2000-2009 showing that the more campaign cash a state justice receives from business interests, the more likely they are to rule in favor of business litigants who show up in their courts.

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