Group defending Supreme Court Justices has spent $1.45 million

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A group that supports three targeted Florida Supreme Court justices has collected — and spent — $1.45 million, newly filed campaign finance reports show.

The group, Defend Justice from Politics, spent almost all of the money this month on advertising as it tries to help justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince win merit-retention elections Nov. 6.

The executive board of the Republican Party of Florida and some conservative groups oppose retention for the justices, arguing they are too liberal.

Lisa Hall, a spokeswoman for the justices’ supporters, said Defend Justice from Politics has started running television ads in the Tampa, Orlando, Miami and West Palm Beach markets. The ads describe the effort to defeat the justices as a “political power grab.”

Defeating justices in merit-retention elections would be unprecedented in Florida.

Along with the money spent by Defend Justice from Politics, the three justices also raised a combined total of $209,617 between Sept. 29 and Oct. 12, according to the new reports. That gave them an overall combined total of $1.36 million, with much of the money coming from attorneys and law firms across the state.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.