Coalition against Iowa Supreme Court justices launches second tv ad

The Iowa for Freedom coalition launched another statewide television commercial today urging Iowans to vote against retaining Supreme Court justices Marsha Ternus, Michael Streit and David Baker. The concept and images strongly resemble the coalition’s first tv ad on the subject, which started running in mid-September.

Video, transcript and comments are after the jump.

My transcript:

Female voice-over: Some in the ruling class say it’s wrong for voters to hold Supreme Court judges accountable for their decisions. [map of Iowa, then footage from Iowa Supreme Court chamber, pictures of justices up for retention]

Former Iowa Supreme Court Justice Mark McCormick: “There is no such thing as an activist judge.” [footage of McCormick saying those words, then words on screen, “No such thing as an activist judge?”]

Voice-over: When activist judges on Iowa’s Supreme Court imposed gay marriage, [Question “No such thing as an activist judge?” remains near top of screen; below photos of Ternus, Streit and Baker revolve in a circle, moving left]

they were the only judges within twelve hundred miles to reach such a radical conclusion. [map of eastern half of U.S. with red dotted line connecting Boston, Massachusetts and Hartford, Connecticut to Des Moines, words on screen, too small for viewer to read easily: “Paid for by the National Organization for Marriage, 2029 K Street NW, #300, Washington, DC 20006, Brian Brown, Pres.,, a project of AFA Action, Inc. 2800 University Ave #111, West Des Moines, IA 50266, David Lane, Exec. Dir. and Campaign for Working Families PAC, 2800 S. Shirlington Rd, Arlington, VA 22206, Gary Bauer, Pres. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.”]

If they can redefine marriage, none of the freedoms we hold dear are safe from judicial activism. [photos show a man and woman with a small child, a group of children holding their hands over their hearts apparently looking toward a flag, a scene that looks like a mother teaching her daughter, and a group of men in hunting gear]

To hold activist judges accountable, [left side of screen shows labeled photos of Baker, Streit and Ternus; right side shows the front top portion of the official general election ballot for Iowa]  

flip your ballot over and vote no on retention of Supreme Court justices [the ballot flips over as photos of Baker, Streit and Ternus are replaced by “NO” “NO” “NO”; then viewer sees close-up of portion of ballot asking, “Shall the justices for the Supreme Court be retained?” Red marks appear in the “NO” area next to each justice’s name.]

Using photos that were also included in the first anti-retention tv ad, the groups trying to oust judges imply that a runaway Iowa Supreme Court will ban the pledge of allegiance in schools and take away the rights of homeschoolers and gun owners. They have yet to point to a single other decision by Ternus, Streit or Baker that would justify their concerns.

The commercial doesn’t break any new ground rhetorically, but it may be enough to repeat the judges’ names while showing and telling viewers how to vote against them.

The main innovation in this ad is introducing McCormick to represent the “ruling class” pitted against the voters. McCormick retired from the Iowa Supreme Court during the 1990s and has been a vocal critic of the anti-retention drive. He and another former Supreme Court justice, Robert Allbee, mixed it up with Iowa for Freedom leader Bob Vander Plaats at a public forum in West Des Moines last night (see also here). At one point McCormick accused Vander Plaats of using a “sky is falling” tactic, to which Vander Plaats replied, “The sky is falling when the court is saying we’re holding Iowa’s constitution to an evolving standard for each generation.” That’s not what the court said, by the way. Iowa has strong case law on equal protection going back more than 100 years.

Speaking of the judicial retention elections, Chuck Hurley of the Iowa Family Policy Center is calling on Iowans to vote against retaining all judges, because:

      1. I’ve not heard any of them repudiate what the Iowa Supreme Court judges did, and some are actively defending them.

      2. When we sent questionnaires to judges in the past, they’ve followed the Iowa Supreme Court’s advice to not answer them. This leaves us with what the U.S. Supreme Court has called “state-imposed voter ignorance.” Since I am being asked whether to re-hire someone with my own tax dollars, I won’t hire him or her without knowledge of motivation, experience, and philosophy; especially when, as a group, judges have refused in the past to answer our respectful questions about those issues.

      3. If some judges are defeated because of their ties to the Iowa Supreme Court judges, it will strengthen our ability to get them to answer future questionnaires on their judicial philosophies and methods of constitutional interpretation.

      4. I don’t know any of them well enough personally to be sure that they hold to the original intent of the U.S. and Iowa Constitutions.

I’ve heard former Governor Bob Ray’s radio ad urging Iowans to vote “yes, yes and yes” on the judges several times in the car this week. I hope Ray’s message will resonate with Iowans who might consider voting no.

I have no sense of the judges’ chance to be retained. Last month the Des Moines Register’s Iowa poll found respondents divided fairly evenly on the issue. To my knowledge, no numbers have been released from another poll on the Iowa retention vote, which was in the field in late September. Based on the question wordings, that poll appeared to have been commissioned by one of the national organizations funding the Iowa for Freedom coalition.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that I disagree with McCormick when he says there’s no such thing as an activist judge. The conservative judges on the U.S. Supreme Court have repeatedly struck down laws, ignoring decades of legal precedent in the process. In fact, one scholar suggests that judicial activism has become “a defining feature of the Roberts Court’s unfolding legacy.”

SECOND UPDATE: The National Organization for Marriage is spending $200,000 to run the new tv ad. Several other national social conservative advocacy groups have gotten involved in Iowa’s retention elections too.

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