We’re a little more than halfway through the six-week general election that will decide control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and the New York Times’ Reid Epstein reports that progressive Janet Protasiewicz has outspent her conservative foe, former Justice Daniel Kelly, on TV by a margin of $9.1 million to $0.00.
Outside groups are helping Kelly’s side avoid getting infinitely outspent ahead of the April 4 general election: The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce has deployed $3.4 million so far, while Fair Courts America has spent another $2.3 million on television. These commercials have accused Protasiewicz of not issuing harsh enough sentences, though they haven’t mentioned Kelly.
But not only is Protasiewicz decisively outspending both those organizations, Epstein writes that she’s run more than three times as many TV ads because, as a candidate, she’s entitled to far cheaper rates than PACs. Note that this 3-1 figure does not even factor in the $2.03 million that A Better Wisconsin Together and other progressive groups have spent.
Kelly, unsurprisingly, played down his deficit Sunday when he predicted to supporters, “I’m told the cavalry is on the way. And so hopefully, they’ll have some good and smart and true ads.” So far, though, his allies aren’t saying anything about their plans for the remaining three weeks of the race, while it remains to be seen if another conservative group arrives to help him out. Kelly himself also said that he believed he’d raise somewhere between $2 million and $2.5 million, which is less than a third of what Protasiewicz has already spent, while spokesperson Ben Voelkel also said the campaign was filming its very first spot Tuesday.
For now, though, he doesn’t have anyone to help defend him from a pair of new Protasiewicz ads arguing he’s both an extremist and corrupt. One commercial attacks Kelly over his 2013 blog post comparing Social Security to slavery and writing that people on Social Security have “chosen to retire without sufficient assets to support themselves.” Protasiewicz’s other spot again accuses the former justice of ruling in favor of plaintiffs he had ties to.
An angry Kelly responded by accusing Protasiewicz of lying about him, though his team didn’t seem especially concerned that he was failing to get his own narrative on TV. “They are spending millions of dollars for an election that’s not going to have a big turnout,” Voelkel said of Protasiewicz before adding, “We’ve taken a slightly different approach.” Voelkel did not reveal what that “slightly different,” though unquestionably significantly cheaper, approach is.