Supreme Court race breaks fundraising record

The ballots haven't even been tallied and the state Supreme Court race has broken the campaign fundraising record for judicial races.

Democrat Jack Panella has raised more than $2.35 million, breaking the record set by Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery in 2007, according to the group Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts.

The group - which advocates judicial appointment rather than election -  tallied campaign contributions reported to the Department of State as of the end of the most recent reporting cycle on Oct. 19.

In a press release the group said that "the results are of concern to court watchers, especially in light of public opinion polls that show the public is concerned that justice is for sale to the biggest campaign contributor."

By contrast, Republican Jane Orie Melvin has raised just $733,948.

McCaffrey set the previous record by raising $2.34 million (including $25,000 leftover from a 2005 campaign) in a four way race for two seats on the Supreme Court, Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts said.

The group said it expect final fundraising numbers to rise significantly when the campaigns' final reports will be due February 1, 2010.

Executive director Lynn Marks said the amount of campaign contributions is "troubling" because it comes from law firms, unions and businesses which frequently litigate in state courts.

 "These are not the types of records Pennsylvania should be proud of," Marks said. "But when you elect judges in partisan contests, the elections become more expensive, not less so."



Click here for's politics page.