Documented Ad Spending in NC Judicial Primary Passes $1 Million Milestone
Out-of-State Money Funneled through Local Groups
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 29 - Public records available to date show that advertising expenditures on the North Carolina Supreme Court primary race have surpassed $1 million, including expenditures by candidates themselves and independent groups. The primary, to be held on , features a three-way race among incumbent Justice Robin Hudson and challengers Eric Levinson and Jeanette Doran. The two who receive the most votes will face each other in the general election in November.
“This kind of spending in a judicial primary would have been unheard-of just a short time ago,” said Bert Brandenburg, Executive Director of Justice at Stake. “What compounds the problem this year is that North Carolina has just done away with its public financing program for judicial elections. These judges now find themselves in a superheated political climate, where they feel forced to solicit donations from parties who could appear before them. And when deep-pocketed special interests start spending on their own to air ads, the judges lose all control over the tone of the race and the claims or accusations made.”
Among the outside groups spending to produce and air ads in the primary race is the North Carolina Chamber IE PAC, which on a state disclosure form has reported$225,000 paid to advertising agency Impact Strategies and itemized as charges for ads supporting Levinson and Doran. The group has reported contributions from a number of in-state industry sources as well as $50,000 in out-of-state funding from Koch Industries.
Meanwhile, state disclosure forms indicate that the incumbent, Hudson, has spent $86,320 with ad agency Media Partners, Inc., for a media buy. Television ads for Hudson were scheduled to begin airing on North Carolina television stations today.
A state disclosure form for Doran shows no expenses for advertising media buys.
Current state disclosure forms are not yet on file for Levinson. However, FCC records indicate his campaign has spent $146,762 under its own name for purchases on stations WJZY, WGHP, WXII, WSOC, WBTV, WCNC, and WFMY.
Current state disclosure forms are not on file for another independent group, Justice for All North Carolina. However, FCC records indicate that the group, which is reporting $650,000 in its coffers as a result of an out-of-state contribution from the DC-based Republican State Leadership Committee, has been spending heavily on TV ads. So far, records show expenditures of $591,680 to place ads on several stations: WTVD, WRAL, WSOC, WBTV, WXII, WXLV, WNCN, WCCB, WCNC, and WGHP.
An ad placed by Justice for All criticizes Hudson as “not tough on child molesters.” A rebuttal ad by Hudson’s campaign calls the ad opposing her “false” and says Hudson has been endorsed by seven former members of the state Supreme Court.
The advertising expenditures documented to date come to $1,049,762. Campaigns’ itemized expenses for miscellaneous marketing items including signs, web design, and palm cards were not counted.
In 2012, North Carolina featured one of the most expensive Supreme Court races in the nation, with TV ad spending driven by a super PAC, the North Carolina Judicial Coalition. That spending was documented in The New Politics of Judicial Elections report published by Justice at Stake in collaboration with the Brennan Center for Justice and the National Institute for Money in State Politics.
More information on total ad spending is expected to be available in the coming days. Justice at Stake will be monitoring developments.
Justice at Stake is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to keep America's courts fair and impartial. Justice at Stake and its 50-plus state and national partners educate the public, and work for reforms to keep politics and special interests out of the courtroom - so judges can protect our Constitution, our rights and the rule of law. For more about Justice at Stake, go to www.justiceatstake.org or www.gavelgrab.org.