New Role of Money is a Greater Threat to Oregon than Old Judges

What Oregon needs more than an end to the mandatory retirement age is something to address the growing role of money in determining who sits on our appellate courts. While Oregon has not yet seen the kinds of campaigns that have marred states such as Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia, it is likely only a matter of time before corporations notice that Oregon’s total absence of campaign contribution limits makes judicial seats prime investment candidates.
 
In 2010, three candidates for two seats raised and spent just a hair over $100,000; but in 2012, four candidates for two seats (one uncontested, with the other three vying for the remaining seat) raised and spent over $750,000.
 
BALDWIN, RICHARD C       SUPREME COURT      Won
Total Amount Raised:   $430,832

Name       Amount
Agriculture   $250
Communications & Electronics $10550
Energy & Natural Resources  $500
Finance, Insurance & Real Estate  $500
General Business $2000
Health  $450
Government Agencies/Education/Other   $4100
Ideology/Single Issue   $36194
Lawyers & Lobbyists  $176959
Labor $85245
Uncoded  $15325
Unitemized Contributions  $41661
Candidate Contributions  $54045
Non-Contributions $3052

 
COOK, NENA      SUPREME COURT      Lost – General Election

Total Amount Raised:  $253,837
Name   Amount
Agriculture  $1000
Communications & Electronics $250
Energy & Natural Resources $200
Finance, Insurance & Real Estate   $58550
General Business  $5750
Government Agencies/Education/Other $2950
Ideology/Single Issue  $1000
Lawyers & Lobbyists  $53791
Labor $1000
Transportation $200
Uncoded  $10435
Unitemized Contributions $26417
Candidate Contributions $92295
 
SERCOMBE, TIMOTHY J     SUPREME COURT     Lost – Primary Election

Total Amount Raised:  $66,740
Name   Amount
Agriculture    $200
Communications & Electronics    $250
Finance, Insurance & Real Estate   $850
General Business $200
Health  $500
Government Agencies/Education/Other   $1150
Lawyers & Lobbyists   $38298
Uncoded   $6687
Unitemized Contributions $17005
Candidate Contributions  $1600
 
Data from The National Center on State Courts, using data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
 
Without public financing of judicial campaigns or a fundamental change away from traditional elections, judicial elections in Oregon are likely to follow the tragic pattern in other states, where only candidates who appeal to the wealthy are able to run credible campaigns, much less prevail.