NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is personally funding the main opposition to three Tennessee Supreme Court justices out of his own political action committee, new financial disclosures show.
Altogether, spending by both sides has now passed the $1 million mark, and that number is likely to increase between now and the Aug. 7 election.
Financial reports filed Thursday night show that the opposition group, the Tennessee Forum, has raised $446,329. Of that, $425,000 came from Ramsey's RAAMPAC.
The Blountville Republican had previously indicated that he had no plans to use his PAC funds to finance his effort to convince voters to replace Democratic appointees Connie Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade.
"My cause is the conservative cause," Ramsey said in an email to supporters Friday morning . "And the place for conservatives to be is fully behind the effort to replace a Supreme Court that is out-of-touch and out-of-line with Tennessee values."
Tennessee Forum reported that it had spent $444,004.
The group has purchased the widely seen TV ads that call the justices "liberal on crime" and claim that they "advanced Obamacare." A campaign for the three judges has called those claims "absolutely false."
On top of that, an out-of-state, corporate-funded group, the Republican State Leadership Committee, reported that it had spent $196,866 on the effort to oust the justices.
But the new financial disclosures do not reflect how much has been spent by other opposition groups, including the Tennessee chapter of Americans for Prosperity and the State Government Leadership Foundation.
Americans for Prosperity is funded largely by the billionaire Koch Brothers.
Meanwhile, new reports show that the three justices’ campaigns have raised more than $1 million combined. Wade leads the pack with $462,281 in total contributions. Lee received $305,404 (including an $18,000 loan), while Clark had $295,535.
Most of that money appears to have come from the legal community, although Wade has received contributions from Gov. Bill Haslam's family. The governor's father, James A. Haslam II, gave $3,500. His brother, James A. Haslam III, gave $3,000.
Altogether, the justices have spent $688,000.
An independent political action committee supporting the justices, Tennesseans for Fair Courts, reported that it had raised $46,000 and spent $45,610.