But the spike in spending on judicial campaigns has heightened public concerns over whether the justices who are elected can do that.
More than $1.1 million has been raised by Juras, Sandefur and organizations supporting their campaigns, according to state campaign finance records. The Republican State Leadership Committee’s Judicial Fairness Initiative, a DC-based political group funded primarily by large corporations, has bought ads to attack Sandefur, while various political action committees of the Montana Trial Lawyers Association have lined up to oppose Juras in what could be another record-setting fundraising year.
“We have out-of-state corporate money being dumped into Montana by the Koch brothers and major companies not in Montana, who don’t give a hoot,” Sandefur said. “Don’t give a hoot about crime victims. Don’t give a hoot about criminal justice.”
McGrath called it “unfortunate” that the state’s strict rules on campaign contributions and disclosure were largely erased by the Supreme Court of the United States’ Citizens United ruling, leading to unlimited and often undisclosed independent expenditures in campaigns. He argued in an opinion that the nation’s top court ultimately struck down that the ruling, which had focused on federal elections, did not consider the influence of big money on state-level judicial races. Federal judges are appointed.