Recent activities of National, State and Local LWV
On February 11 2013, LWV Michigan, LWV Ann Arbor Area and UM Law School presented a forum on Dark Money in Judicial Selection. Panelists were Rich Robinson, Exec. Dir., The Michigan Campaign Finance Network, The Honorable Marilyn Kelly, Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, Retired, and MaryAnn Sarosi, senior adviser for Bridget McCormack's successful campaign for Michigan Supreme Court in 2012.
Mr. Robinson presented statistics showing the growth of unreported or "Dark" money in Michigan Supreme Court campaigns. In the 2012 election, total expenditures were $18.4 million or $6.1 million per seat. Of the total, 75.1% or $13.8 million was spent on "issue advertising" which current Michigan Campaign Finance rules do not require to be reported. Such lobbying can be appropriate to electing legislators or state administrative officials, but is not applicable to judges who should not be subject to lobbying. "Issue advertising" is more and more entering trial court competitions as well.
MaryAnn Sarosi spoke about her experience with the pressures to fund-raise in order to respond to increasingly negative "issue ads" during the McCormack campaign.
Justice Marilyn Kelly then outlined the report issued by the Judicial Selection Task Force (JSTF) recommending a series of actions to be taken to improve our system for the election of judges. These recommendations include expanding the requirement for disclosure of sources of campaign funding and changes in the nomination process. To see the full report click here and go to the LWV Michigan website where you will find a link to the report.
Click HERE to see a video of the entire presentation.
Click HERE for the NPR coverage of the forum
To see the Michigan Daily report of the meeting, click HERE
Click HERE to find the Michigan Campaign Finance Network website.
======================================== OCTOBER, 2011 FORUM ON JUDICIAL ELECTIONS LWV, the Washtenaw Bar, the AAUW and and the Michigan Impartial Courts Coalition sponsored a forum on removing the influence of money and politics from Michigan's Supreme Court elections. Representative Paul Condino, Chair of the Michigan House Judiciary Committee, served as moderator of a panel comprised of Judge Edward Thomas, Wayne County Circuit Court (retired); Brian Dickerson, a columnist for the Detroit Free Press; and Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. The three panelists discussed the problem of political interference in Michigan courts. The main problem is that the cost of judicial campaigns is out of control--$23.5 million has been spent on Michigan Supreme Court campaigns between 2000 and 2011. In order to raise the huge amount of money necessary to run a campaign, candidates look to special interests for donations and the sources of these donations are often hidden from public view. Contributors often expect special treatment when cases involving their particular interests appear before the Court. Public trust and confidence in the courts is at risk as a large majority of Michigan voters believe that the courts are influenced by campaign contributions. To remain fair and impartial, the Michigan Campaign Finance Network makes the following recommendations:
Full and timely disclosure of all contributions to judicial campaigns, including TV issue ads paid for by "527" organizations,
Objective standards for justices to disqualify themselves from cases in which they have a campaign finance relationship
Voluntary public financing for Michigan Supreme Court campaigns
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has said "Judicial elections are becoming political prizefights where partisans and special interests seek to install judges who will answer to them instead of the law and the constitution."
As part of our participation in this study, LWV-AA and the local alumnae group of Delta Sigma Theta co-sponsored a public forum Feb 27 at the Ann Arbor District Library downtown. Panelists were Bob Guenzel, former Washtenaw County Administrator; Lois Richardson, Ypsilanti City Council Member; Susan Baskett, Ann Arbor School Board Member; Sabra Briere, Ann Arbor City Council Member; Andy Fanta, Ypsilanti School Board Member
The ANNARBOR.COM report by Ryan Stanton provides details of the forum and insight into local concerns about this topic.