Spending passes $17M in Pennsylvania high court campaign as billionaires, unions and lawyers dig in

Millions more dollars are flowing into Pennsylvania’s race for an open state Supreme Court seat, as labor unions, trial lawyers, and billionaires are spending heavily in the campaign to influence a court that has been pivotal in major election-related cases in the presidential battleground.

Total spending zipped past $17 million, according to the latest campaign finance reports due Friday, as Democrat Dan McCaffery, Republican Carolyn Carluccio, and their allies claw for an advantage ahead of the Nov. 7 election.

More than half of that spending — at least $12 million — came after Sept. 18, as cash from labor unions, lawyers’ groups, trade associations, and wealthy donors underwrites ads on TV, the internet and fliers showing up in the mail across Pennsylvania.

More than $5 million has come from groups that are conduits for two billionaires who are among the GOP’s top national donors.

The contest will not change the fact that Democrats hold a majority on the seven-member court, but it could narrow the Democratic majority to a one-vote margin, 4-3, should Carluccio win.

Democrats have sought to turn the contest into a de facto referendum on abortion rights in the wake of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade and end nearly a half-century of federal abortion protections.

The election is expected to be a low-turnout contest, with both candidates decrying special interests plunging cash into the race.

“Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen billionaires and corporate interests spending millions of dollars in negative attack ads because they know what we stand for,” McCaffery said in a video posted online over the weekend. “We stand for middle-class values, we stand for working men and women all across Pennsylvania. We will not let this seat be bought.”

McCaffery has frequently targeted the U.S. Supreme Court, warning that it is rolling back abortion rights, labor rights, voting rights and other federally protected rights, leaving such decisions to state courts.

One particular line of attack by McCaffery and his allies is that Carluccio can’t be trusted to protect abortion rights in Pennsylvania.

  • October 31, 2023
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