Total spending on open Supreme Court seat hits at least $7.7 million

By: - November 2, 2021 5:07 pm

The 2021 state Supreme Court race has now cost at least $7.7 million, according to state campaign finance records.

That total includes all the funds raised by Republican Kevin Brobson and Democrat Maria McLaughlin since they launched their campaigns, as well as independent spending on the race from outside groups. 

The total could grow larger still when all independent expenditures and late donations are reported.

Deep-pocketed donors pour money into Pa. Supreme Court race

Brobson’s campaign has now raised a total of $3.3 million in direct and indirect contributions to his campaign, including an extra $475,000 in the last two weeks before the election. More than half of this last- minute cash infusion came from the state Republican Party.

McLaughlin’s  campaign, meanwhile, has raised $2.9 million in direct and indirect contributions. That includes $222,000 raised in the last two weeks before the election. Among those late donations is almost $55,000 from IBEW 98, the electricians’ union headed by John Dougherty.

The Supreme Court race has also been influenced by at least $1.48 million in independent expenditures by outside groups that legally cannot coordinate with the campaigns, $1.18 of which has been spent on the general election.

The independent spending skews heavily toward Brobson. Of it, nearly $1 million either attacked McLaughlin or boosted the Republican. Just $114,000 was in favor of McLaughlin.

Among the biggest independent spenders are the Republican State Leadership Committee — a national group that backs state-level Republicans — which spent $562,500 on TV ads and a text message campaign attacking McLaughlin, and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, which spent $293,000 on digital, TV and mail advertising supporting Brobson.

Another $300,000 was spent by independent groups, including the RSLC, to boost Brobson against two Republican primary opponents in May. Those two GOP candidates raised just $68,000 between themselves.

In 2015, with three Supreme Court seats — and the ideological balance of the court — on the ballot, political groups spent $16.5 million in Pennsylvania.

Regardless of the winner, this year’s election will not change the ideological leaning of the bench.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.