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Posted on Sun, Feb 3, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

Panel discussion at U-M Law School will explore role of 'dark money' in Michigan judicial elections

By Ryan J. Stanton

The League of Women Voters and the University of Michigan Law School are teaming up to bring a panel discussion on judicial campaign finance to Ann Arbor.

"Dark Money in Judicial Selection: A Threat to Impartial Justice?" will explore perceived problems with the way Michigan selects judges and Supreme Court justices, as well as proposals for reform.

The event takes place from 7-8:30 p.m. Feb. 11 inside Room 250 at Hutchins Hall at the U-M Law School. Admission is free.

Panelists include retired state Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly, Michigan Campaign Finance Network Executive Director Rich Robinson, and Bridget McCormack, the state's newest Supreme Court justice and up until recently a U-M law school professor in Ann Arbor.


Ann Arbor's Bridget McCormack, the state's newest Supreme Court justice, is greeted by cheering supporters at a Democratic Party rally on the University of Michigan campus in November 2012. McCormack, a former U-M law school professor, is one of three panelists who will be discussing judicial campaign finance at a Feb. 11 forum on campus.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The event is made possible with funds from the Joyce Foundation and is being co-sponsored by the American Association of University Women.

In the 2012 election, 75 percent — or close to $11 million — in ad spending for Supreme Court candidates could not be linked to identifiable donors, according to the Michigan LWV.

Judges aren't supposed to hear cases involving major donors, but the LWV asks: How are voters supposed to know if judges should recuse themselves when the money is spent behind the scenes?

"Voters have the right to know who is paying for the ads that are trying to influence their vote," said Susan Smith, president of the LWV in Michigan.

McCormack, a Democrat, commented on the money spent on negative attack ads in her race after her win in the November election.

"In my particular race, there was $1 million from a D.C. Super PAC spent against me just in the last week," she said. "I think that's not the best use of our time and our money and not the best way to pick a court. Nobody knows who funds that Super PAC and what they think they're buying, right?"

After the event in Ann Arbor, the LWV is holding three more panel discussions on judicial campaign finance, including one on Feb. 12 at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, one on March 11 at Oakland University in Rochester and one on March 12 at Cooley Law School in Lansing.

The Michigan LWV is a nonpartisan organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of public policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. It does not support candidates for political office.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Colorado Sun

Fri, Feb 8, 2013 : 3:18 a.m.

Look at the Timothy Connors campaign financing. Raked in thousands from attorneys who had big dollar cases pending before him. this garbaage needs to end.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

All political donations should be made part of the public record. Why is that so hard? Why would anybody oppose this idea? If we want as open government as we can have why do we support "dark money" in any political campaign? Sunshine is a good disinfectant.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

I wonder what the League of Men Voters thinks about not being part of this panel discussion? Go figure!


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 3:30 p.m.

You have no idea who the League of Women Voters are or what they do, do you? If you did you would know that they are dedicated to bringing all voters a non-partisan view of the issues. Also, men are members, both of the League and of panels, though traditionally the members are predominantly women.

Fresh Start

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 3:31 a.m.

Money has no place in politics! It should be about the people, for the people and the election, campaign, and debate should be about the individual candidates position on the issues. We need separation of money and politics like church and state!


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 3:21 a.m.

It's special interest vs. special interest. There's no justice, there's no integrity, only dog fights for position, power, influence, and wealth building.

Michigan Man

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 1:04 a.m.

Would think then that much of this forum will focus on Team Obama and the corrupt money that has flowed into that organization over the past few years. Keep me posted.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

What do you think separates Obamas donors from any other political donor that gives in the dark? Should Obama operate his campaign in a different way than all other candidates? He favors overturning Citizens United, those that oppose him favor keeping it . So those that oppose him and want secrecy in campaign donations are now upset that he uses secret campaign donations?

Angry Moderate

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 5:18 a.m.

Seeing as Obama is not a judge in Michigan, that would not be very relevant.

Dog Guy

Sun, Feb 3, 2013 : 7:46 p.m.

Less than a month into the new court, the next election campaign opens with 'dark smears'. I sure am glad that Justice McCormack didn't accept 'dark money' or undocumented support.

Stephen Landes

Sun, Feb 3, 2013 : 8:59 p.m.

We should all be just as concerned about the money spent on Justice McCormack's campaign. It isn't just the negative ads that can be financed by mysterious donors.