Candidates and groups spent more than $10 million on Wisconsin Supreme Court race, a record amount

MADISON – Candidates and outside groups set a record this spring by spending more than $10 million on the race for state Supreme Court.  

The figures released Thursday came as incoming Justice Jill Karofsky made plans to get sworn in Aug. 1 while participating in a 100-mile run. Karofosky, an avid runner who has completed two Ironman competitions, defeated Justice Daniel Kelly in the April election. 

Karofsky raised $2.7 million, a record for a state Supreme Court candidate. Kelly raised $2.2 million and Marquette law professor Ed Fallone, who lost the February primary, raised nearly $200,000, according to campaign finance reports filed this week. 

Business groups, unions, ideological organizations and others spent another $5 million on the race, according to a tally by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a liberal group that closely tracks political spending. 

Spending the most among those groups was A Better Wisconsin Together, a liberal organization that spent $1.9 million to help Karofsky. 

The next three biggest spenders backed Kelly. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce spent $1.1 million, the Republican State Leadership Committee spent about $900,000 and Americans for Prosperity spent about $480,000. 

Rounding out the top five spenders was the Service Employees International Union, which put about $430,000 into the race to bolster Karofsky’s chances.

Five other groups spent tens of thousands of dollars each.

In all, spending by Karofsky, Kelly and their allies was about evenly split, with slightly more money going toward the efforts to elect Karofsky, according to the democracy campaign.

Karofsky’s victory will narrow the conservative majority on the Supreme Court from 5-2 to 4-3. Her campaign said it would release details soon about her plans to be sworn in, but that she would do so while participating in a 100-mile run. 

Before the election, Karofsky told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel she runs to keep her head clear. 

“Running for me is like breathing oxygen. It just rejuvenates me,” she said in March.

Contact Patrick Marley at patrick.marley@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.