LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Arkansas Times) — Final campaign reports have been filed on the November elections, including a disclosure that the Republican State Leadership Committee’s Judicial Fairness Initiative spent more than $2.6 million attempting unsuccessfully to defeat Supreme Court Justice Courtney Goodson.
The dark money group spent $744,997 in the primary in which Goodson was forced into a runoff by David Sterling, a conservative Republican who campaigned while serving on the state payroll as legal counsel for Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Department of Human Services. It spent almost $1.9 million more in the runoff, according to a report filed Dec. 20, for total expenditures of $2.603 million.
Virtually all the money came from the Republican State Leadership Committee, a PAC based in Washington. That PAC discloses contributors to the IRS periodically, but makes no filings in Arkansas. Major corporate interests from tobacco to drugs to health care are among the contributors. The group insists there’s no earmarking of contributions to individual races, but the PAC has been active across the country in attempting to elect corporate-friendly judges.
The money was spent on radio, TV and digital advertising and robocalls either supporting Sterling or opposing Goodson. The negative spending far outweighed the positive spending for Sterling in the final days of the election.
The spending was for naught. Goodson racked up almost 56 percent of the vote.
Goodson was defeated two years ago in a race for chief justice in which huge sums of dark money were used against her. In her most recent filing, Goodson reported spending about $141,000. Sterling’s campaign spent about $150,000.
Goodson filed lawsuits over the ads purchased against her by the Republican group, which earned an injunction in part of the state during the primary season but also scored a significant amount of free media attention. An independent watchdog group that monitors judicial races also criticized the ad onslaught against Goodson, which focused on gifts she’d received from her future husband, lawyer, and also from a friend who was a corporate lawyer. She noted she’d made all proper disclosures of gifts and said she didn’t participate in cases involving benefactors.