|Published:||Oct 12, 2012 5:58 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Oct 12, 2012 5:58 PM EDT|
FORT MYERS, Fla. - In an unprecedented effort, two billionaires from Kansas are shelling out big bucks to oust three Florida Supreme Court Justices.
Every Friday until the election, WINK News Call For Action is following the money in the hottest races.
Recently, Americans For Prosperity, funded by brothers Charles and David Koch, started airing a minute long internet ad calling for voters to kick three justices off the court. While the ad calls for less politics on the bench, make no mistake, this campaign is all about politics.
In 2010, the Republican-led state legislature put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would have allowed Floridians to opt-out a requirement to obtain health insurance under the President's Affordable Care Act. But in a 5-2 decision, the Florida Supreme Court tossed the amendment. Now the Koch brothers are going to battle.
Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince were among the majority who are now up for retention this year.
Since the 1970's Florida voters have either said yes-or-no to Supreme Court and Appellate Court Justices. Never once have voters removed someone form the bench.
Former President of the American Bar Association Sandy D'Alemberte says merit retention is a tool to remove incompetent judges, not judges with differing political opinions.
"There are people who disagree with their opinions, I disagree with some of their opinions, but that doesn't mean they are not qualified to serve."
Representatives from Americans For Prosperity wouldn't comment on how much they're spending on the retention campaign, but so far this year the group has spent more than $32 million on the Presidential race, according to OpenSecrets.Org.
Another organization, Restore Justice 2012, is also getting into the Florida race. It's latest ad references a 2003 case where the court tossed out a murder conviction. The group says the three justices in question "wanted to give this unrepentant killer another chance." Restore Justice has raised more than $60,000.
But consider this, the three justices can't defend themselves financially. Instead, they have to rely on others to raise money and campaign for them.
As Florida Gulf Coast University Professor of Pubic Affairs Peter Bergerson explains, it's all in an effort to keep the integrity of the bench.
"The judges are to be non-partisan. It appears that some groups are injecting politics into the process."