New campaign disclosure reports out Friday show spending is in the millions for a race that typically has no fundraising.
On August 7th, three of the five Supreme Court justices on the court will finish their eight-year term. Voters will decide to keep or replace three justices appointed by Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen: Chief Justice Gary Wade, Justice Sharon Lee, and Justice Cornelia Clark.
"I'm a judge, I'm not a politician. Yet this is such an important election that I'm getting out all over the state," Justice Sharon Lee told 10News at a campaign stop in Roane County Thursday.
This election is different because for the first time in a long time, there's an attack campaign to get them off the bench led by Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey. He's contributed the majority of the funds to the conservative PAC, The Tennessee Forum.
The Tennessee Forum has spent $444,000 on the campaign. All the contributions listed on the report are from Tennessee donors.
The three justices combined have raised close to a million dollars to combat the attack ads. The justices have said numerous times on the campaign trial that the money for the effort to replace them is not coming from Tennesseans.
"They're [donors] coming in from out of state to try to confuse issues and tell lies. We're determined to tell everybody we can the truth so they can make an informed judgment," said Justice Cornelia Clark.
But 10News found the majority of the donations working against them are from in the state. At least, donations that must be reported.
One PAC, the Republican State Leadership Committee, Inc. out of Washington DC, has spent close to $200,000.
More than half of the justice's contributions are from attorneys and judges.
The Tennessee Forum's director, Susan Kaestner, said "it's a huge conflict of interest" for the same people who bring cases before the supreme court to fund their campaign.
But Knoxville attorney David Burkhalter, who donated to Chief Justice Wade, said the attacks are the reason they were forced to donate in the first place.
"We don't need politicians in our court system. It should be free and independent. That's why what's going on in this election is wrong," Burkahlter said. "That's why many lawyers and many others have come to the aid of the judges. Not because their Democrats but because there are outside groups to oust them."
It's also important to note that more money is being spent than what is reported. It's not illegal because some groups produce so-called "issue ads." As long as it doesn't have the words "Vote for" or "Support a candidate," they do not have to report the campaign expenditure.
SUPREME COURT CANDIDATES FILINGS THROUGH 8/1/2014
$462,280.99 in contributions
$309,629.13 in expenditures
$261,935.00 in total contributions
$198,223.51 in total expenditures
$249,740.00 in total contributions
$178,474.63 in total expenditures
The Tennessee Forum:
$446,228 in total contributions
$444,003.75 in total expenditures
Republican State Leadership Committee Inc.:
$196,865.72 in total itemized contributions
$196,865.72 in total expenditures