The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University is attracting some press attention for a new report on the financing of state judicial elections. A National Public Radio story is headlined "Report: Too Much Money Going To State Court Races," and quotes one of the report's authors as saying, "Fundraising in judicial races doubled to $206 million [over the years 2000-2009] from just $83 million in the '90s, from 1990 to 1999."
The report has an introduction from Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, adding some prestige, and, because Justice O'Connor was appointed by President Reagan, countering the perception that the Brennan Center is just a left-wing advocacy group.
Still, the whole enterprise leaves me somewhat skeptical. Overall federal spending also nearly doubled over the same period covered by the report, to $24.5 trillion over 2000-2009 from $14.9 trillion over 1990 to 1999, yet the Brennan Center isn't up in arms over "runaway spending" by Washington politicians, just by donors to judicial elections. The Brennan Center's proposed solution to the problem — "public financing" — has problems of its own. The NPR story doesn't include any such skepticism or independent analysis, preferring instead to parrot the report.
The report doesn't say how many elections total the $206 million was spent on, or what the average cost per election was, or how many of the elections were contested or uncontested, making it difficult to evaluate exactly whether the $206 million is "too much" money or not enough money.