Follow the Money

Examination of contributions and donor patterns during this election year serves two purposes. It helps inform voters and it provides information for the Ohio Supreme Court. The rising cost of Ohio judicial elections, along with well-funded efforts by interest groups to influence the outcomes of these races, has raised serious concerns about the judiciary’s independence and impartiality. Since 1999, the American Bar Association (ABA) has recommended mandatory disqualification of any judge who has accepted large contributions from a party appearing before him/her. Although, the American Bar Association has left each state to choose a specific contribution amount that might trigger recusal, the Bar reaffirmed this recommendation in February 2007 in their Model Code of Judicial Conduct.
The ABA’s new Model Code led Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer to establish a nineteen-member Task Force on the Code of Judicial Conduct in June 2007. Beginning in August 2007, the Task Force conducted a comprehensive review of the ABA Model Code, existing Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct, case law, and advisory opinions. On February 26, 2008, the Task Force released a proposed Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct. The second public comment period on the proposed Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct ends October 17, 2008.

The proposed Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct does not include recusal or disqualification of judges if major contributors appear before them and it does not include capping the contributions made by individuals that belong to the same organization. This study provides an opportunity to examine the aggregate contributions from organizations and to consider their possible impact on judicial independence. It also provides an opportunity to examine electioneering communication and judicial independence.

Full study: Contributions to Candidates for the Ohio Supreme Court from November 5, 2007 to September 30, 2008

Methodology

The Money in Politics Project of the Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund analyzed contributions to the candidates forJustices of the Ohio Supreme Court. Totals include contributions from political action committees (PACs), labor unions, and individuals.

The database is based on the filings of candidates for the Ohio Supreme Court, available in computerized form from the Ohio Secretary of State. These filings were submitted electronically by the candidate committees to the Secretary of State and are available on-line at www.sos.state.oh.us. Candidates for the Ohio Supreme Court are permitted to raise money only during the time period that they are on the ballot. The candidates were given an opportunity to review their campaign finance profiles.

To identify the employers of contributors, the Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund used the following:
    1. Databases of architects, doctors, dentists, funeral directors, and certified public accountants registered to do business in Ohio from the Ohio Division of Administrative Services,
    2. A database from the Ohio Supreme Court of attorneys in Ohio
    3. A list of lobbyists in Ohio from the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee,
    4. A list of contributors to political action committees in Ohio,
    5. Database of physicians provided by the American Medical Association,
    6. Database of attorneys provided by Martindale-Hubble.
    7. Search engines like Google.
For each candidate the total amount in this campaign finance database includes the following:
  • Contributions received
  • Contributions received at a social or fundraising event
  • In-kind contributions received
  • Contributions the candidate gave to his own campaign
The campaign finance profiles do not include Statement of Other Income, which includes interest, refunds, returns, and other non-contribution income.

Justice O’Connor’s campaign filed an amendment itemizing the $10,000 from Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur LLP on October 14, 2008.

The union contributions include only those from union political contributing entities. The political party contributions include only political party and candidate committee and Leadership PAC donations. Individual employee donations are included in the individual category. In all other cases, organizational totals include PACs/PCEs and employees. It should be noted that unidentified individual donors whose last name and street address match a known donor and identified with the known donor.

The political advertisement storyboards were provided by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. The Brennan Center's Buying Time Project analyzes television advertising in state Supreme Court elections. They use data obtained from a commercial firm, TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group ("CMAG"), which records each ad via satellite. CMAG provides information about the location, dates, frequency, and estimated costs of each ad, as well as storyboards. You can find the storyboards at http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/buying_time_la_al_oh_lead_spending_surge/

The contribution information for the Partnership for Ohio’s Future is available on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website at http://www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/Campaign%20Finance.aspx. Information about Caperton v. Massey Coal Co. can be found at http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/caperton_v_massey/. Information about Election 2004 and the Avery v. State Farm can be found at http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/avery_v_state_farm_automobile_ins_co/ and http://www.slate.com/id/2137529/ Current limits on contributions to judicial candidates can be found at http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/Judicial_Candidates/limits/




>