The Nasty Side of Judicial Elections
October 28, 2016 1 Comment
Years ago judicial elections in Mississippi consisted of the candidates making stump speeches about their qualifications. Members of the community would support or oppose judges based on their interactions and experiences with the candidates and recommendations from friends and family.
Those days are gone. Now, outside groups and political action committees (PACS) come to Mississippi and pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into negative attack ads. The latest example is the Mississippi Supreme Court race between current Supreme Court Justice Jim Kitchens and Court of Appeals Judge Kenny Griffis.
Both Justice Kitchens and Judge Griffis are good and honorable men. Prior to the election, Justice Kitchens spoke with Judge Griffis and there was gentleman’s promise that both would run clean campaigns.
That promise of course doesn’t bind these special interest groups seeking to influence the election. The latest attack ads against Justice Kitchens claim he used “loopholes” to help criminal defendants. This simply isn’t true. Justice Kitchens, like any judge, is bound to follow the Mississippi and United States Constitution. Those Constitutions are not “loopholes” that can be set aside whenever the result is unpleasant. Those Constitutions are the bedrock established by our founding fathers to help ensure a just government.
One of the groups that is attacking Justice Kitchens is called the Center for Individual Freedom (CIF). Their stated mission is “to protect and defend individual freedoms and individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.” Little is known about the source of their funding, but records show that between 2010 and 2011 they accepted $2,750,000 from Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS group and once received financial support from the National Smokers Alliance, a tobacco industry front group. Rove’s Crossroads GPS doubled down giving another $2,190,000 to CIF between 2012 and 2014.
The Virginia-based Center for Individual Freedom is a tobacco industry front group founded by a major tobacco industry lobbyist with funds from all of the big tobacco companies. In fact, the group is born directly from the ashes of the National Smokers Alliance whose mission was “dedicated to fighting discrimination against smokers and to supporting business owners” that sold tobacco products. Thomas Humber, founder of the Center for Individual Freedom was also president of the National Smokers Alliance (NSA).
..What does CFIF do? Just like their predecessor the NSA, the Center for Individual Freedom has lobbied to kill common sense smoking restrictions and any tobacco tax no matter what. In recent years, they’ve gotten even more slick trying to do away with state laws that require donors to groups be disclosed. How convenient — now they can spend money to do away with tobacco taxes and smoking restrictions without having to disclose their donors!
Equipped with all this revealing information, we now want to know what exactly Leslie Rutledge has promised Big Tobacco? What do they expect from her? Why is CFIF so concerned with the Arkansas Attorney General race?
The Arkansas Attorney General oversees the administration of the tobacco master settlement agreement of 1998, which means $7 billion per year to the states – and $60 million a year to Arkansas. The tobacco companies hate the regulatory compliance for the tobacco settlement. They hate when AGs band together to stop the glamorization of smoking on movie screens that sets a bad example for children, and Big Tobacco doesn’t like it when there is pushback on child-friendly advertising images like Joe Camel and candy-flavored tobacco that entices young people to smoke. And they don’t like the push by state AGs to include the new vapor cigarettes and all their fun and youth-enticing flavors to be included in the overall tobacco settlement.
The Center for Individual Freedom isn’t concerned with your individual freedom or Constitutional rights. It gathers money from big business and other PACS. Those millions in dark money are then funneled into elections around the country to influence elections with dirty attack ads.
There are no judicial candidates in Mississippi running for Supreme Court that seek out legal loopholes to help criminals. I have known Justice Jim Kitchens professionally for 20+ years. My father was a career law enforcement officer. Even before I had ever met Jim Kitchens, I remember my father speaking well of then attorney Jim Kitchens. That made an impression on me as speaking well of attorneys was not something my father did often.
Long story short……….Don’t be deceived on election day.