Supreme Court Retention Election Most Expensive in State’s History

For Immediate Release                    Contact; 312-335-1767
October 26, 2010

                Supreme Court Retention Election Most Expensive in State’s History
              Justice Kilbride’s Committee Far Outpacing Fundraising By Opponents

CHICAGO – The retention campaign of Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride has shattered the state’s previous fundraising records for one-candidate judicial contests, with more than $3.1 million reported raised between supporters and opponents, an analysis by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform shows.Thanks in large part to an infusion of more than $1.4 million from the Democratic Party of Illinois, Kilbride’s supporters have outpaced the opposition’s fundraising by a margin of nearly 4 to 1. Kilbride’s committee has reported raising more than $2.48 million between July 1 and Oct. 25, according to records filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections. Opponent JUSTPAC, the political committee of the Illinois Civil Justice League, has logged more than $667,000 in contributions.

The Kilbride retention contest is the nation’s most expensive such campaign this year, according to an analysis by Justice At Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. It is the second most expensive one-candidate retention election in the country’s history. Only the 1986 retention election in which California State Supreme Court Justice Rose Bird was ousted, where both sides raised a combined $11.4 million, has cost more.

The previous record for the most expensive retention campaign in Illinois was that of current Supreme Court Justice Charles Freeman’s successful retention bid in 2000. Then, the Democratic Justice from Cook County raised $235,799; Kilbride’s committee alone has raised more than 10 times that amount. No political committees opposing Freeman’s 2000 campaign were found.Kilbride is one of three Illinois Supreme Court justices running in a non-partisan retention election this November and the only one with an organized opposition committee.At the end of their 10-year terms, members of the state’s high court seeking to hold another term in office must receive 60 percent of the vote in their district through a single-candidate retention election. If a justice fails to reach that threshold, that justice is removed from the bench, and the other six justices appoint a replacement to serve the two-year period leading up to the next election.

Voters have never failed to retain an Illinois Supreme Court justice, although on occasion Appellate Court candidates have been ousted through the same process.Opponents have targeted Kilbride in part because he is a Democrat in the traditionally Republican-leaning 3rd Judicial District, which stretches from the Quad Cities to Kankakee. The two other justices seeking additional terms – Charles Freeman in First Judicial District (Cook County) and Robert Thomas in the Second Judicial District – have not formed political committees. (A committee to support all Cook County judges remains active, however.)

The majority of Kilbride’s financial support – $1,425,000 – has come from the Democratic Party of Illinois (DPI). During Kilbride’s 2000 election campaign, the DPI was Kilbride’s primary supporter as well.The Illinois Federation of Teachers and its committee constitute Kilbride’s second-biggest contributor, reporting more than $454,000 in contributions and in-kind support.JUSTPAC serves as the leading opposition group to Kilbride’s retention effort. The committee has reported raising more than $642,000, much of which originated from national groups and associations, according to reports filed by the Illinois State Board of Elections. The group’s largest contributors are: the American Justice Partnership ($180,000), a wing of the American Manufacturers Association; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($150,000); the American Tort Reform Association ($88,920) and the Illinois State Medical Society PAC ($50,000).

Additional information on this and other races can be found at  The Sunshine Database on ICPR's website also allows visitors to search by candidate name or by district number to find more detailed information about contributors to those candidates and search by a contributor name to see what campaign committees received contributions from that contributor.

About the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform
The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest organization conducting research and advocating reforms to promote public participation in government, address the role of money in politics and encourage integrity, accountability and transparency in government. The late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon founded ICPR in 1997.