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Idea of the Day: The Koch Brothers and Nonpartisan State Supreme Court Races

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idea light bulbIn his 2010 dissent in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens warned that the majority had “unleashe[d] the floodgates of corporate and union general treasury spending” in judicial elections. Justice Stevens wrote, “States … after today, may no longer have the ability to place modest limits on corporate electioneering even if they believe such limits to be critical to maintaining the integrity of their judicial systems.” As if to underscore his concerns, judicial campaign cash set a record in 2012, and for the first time, the type of independent spending unleashed by Citizens United and other federal court rulings nearly exceeded the amount spent by the candidates.

The 2014 judicial elections could see even more campaign cash, thanks to unprecedented plans by national partisan groups to spend millions to influence this year’s judicial races. The Washington, D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee, or RSLC, is now the first national party organization focused on electing judges. The RSLC was the biggest spender in the May 5 North Carolina Supreme Court primary election, and four of the seven seats on the court are up for grabs in November.

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