So what do you do for fun in your spare, stolen moments?
I like to look through independent expenditure reports on the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure website. Yeah. I’m Mr. Fun.
Independent expenditures are made by various “outside groups” who like to spend bucks advocating for various election results, but without directly coordinating with any candidates. Or, in technical, legal terms: wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more.
Independent expenditures are bankrolling the battle over whether to toss or keep Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins. Figuring out those numbers is a cumbersome and, potentially, inexact process. You have to look at a bunch of individual pdf files detailing each expenditure made by each group involved, along with lists of donors. There are no compiled totals or searchable databases.
It’s basically all about curiosity and a calculator. I checked and rechecked my addition, but human error is possible. I’m only flesh and blood and Halloween candy, after all.
Four main groups are involved in the retention saga. On the No Wiggins side are Iowans for Freedom, an offshoot of Bob Vander Plaats’ Family Leader organization, and the National Organization for Marriage. On the vote yes side are the Iowa Bar Association and Justice Not Politics. A third group, Progress Iowa, tossed in about $5,000 for a pro retention video.
All together, through today, the groups have spent $679,000 on the judicial struggle, according to my humble calculations. That’s considerably less than was spent two years ago on a successful effort to throw out three justices. But more money may flow in any minute now.
The judge-hunters are outspending the judge-retainers $434,788 to $244,212, so far. And they’re pursuing different spending strategies.
Iowans for Freedom and NOM have pumped just less than $300,000 in to TV ads, while the Bar Association and Justice Not Politics have purchased no TV time. Wiggins backers have, instead, spent $181,000 on postcards and other direct mailings.
Iowans for Freedom spent $23,000-plus on web advertising, including more than $10,000 for ads on Google and Facebook. Pro-retention groups report no online spending, but did put $18,000 into telephone-based efforts.
And I have to say, if you’re going to tour the state in style, you have to go with the judge hunters. The No Wiggins bus tour cost $62,772, compared to just $10,995 spent by the Iowa Bar Association for its own truck tour. Hands down, the best way to throw a judge under the bus is by motor coach. You simply must try it.
So where does this money come from?
The biggest donation to Iowans for Freedom came from CitizenLink, a group formed by Colorado-based Focus on the Family, which donated $50,000. Rick Santorum’s Patriot Voices kicked in $25,000 and Catholicvote.org gave $10,000. I don’t know where exactly NOM got the nearly $140,000 it spent on ousting Wiggins.
Wiggins’ backers got a lot of money from Iowa lawyers and law firms, as you might expect, led by former Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful and gubernatorial candidate Roxanne Conlin, who donated $25,000 to Justice Not Politics. Another $100,000 came from two political committees affiliated with the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group.
The Iowa Bar has spent a little more than $42,000 total, including a $5,000 donation to Justice Not Politics.
CitzenLink isn’t just interested in Wiggins’ fate. The group has also been giving money to The Family Leader, which, in turn, has been sprinkling those bucks into about a dozen state Senate races. The Family Leader has spent more than $70,000 on postcards and radio ads in those districts.
Just more than half of that money has been invested in two races. The Family Leader has pumped just more than $20,000 into Sen. Merlin Bartz’s tough re-election run against Sen. Mary Jo Wilhem, including $8,671 in radio ads purchased Oct. 25.
Bartz called on local officials to ignore the Iowa Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling. Turns out it was Bartz who got ignored. He also complained about the possibility that same-sex married couples would qualify as a family under state park camping rules.
Another $15,000 has gone to help Al Riggenberg unseat Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, including a $9,896 radio ad buy. Gronstal, of course, has blocked efforts to put a ban on same-sex marriage in the Iowa Constitution.
By all means, browse the reports yourselves. If you find any mistakes I’ve made, please let me know. I know you will.