Outside groups that spent more than $2 million in last year’s heated N.C. Supreme Court justice race were highlighted this week in a report  about the increasing role of Washington money in state judicial races.
As part of an article looking at how national political funders are getting involved in local judicial races, the Center for Public Integrity  focused on $1.2 million from the Republican State Leadership Council. The money flowed through to an ad featuring a banjo-strumming narrator singing about how N.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby is tough on crime, according to the report.
(Newby, of course, ended up defeating challenger Sam Ervin IV, a N.C. Court of appeal judge, in the November election.)
The Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan investigative news organization, found that “North Carolina’s Supreme Court election was arguably decided by groups like Justice for All — secretive nonprofits, unaffiliated with a candidate, whose money came from out of state,”
From the article :
In North Carolina, Supreme Court campaigns are mostly funded by taxpayers to spare candidates from having to raise significant money and appear beholden to individuals, companies or interest groups that may face them in court. The outside money in last fall’s race overwhelmed the public finance system, rendering it largely irrelevant.
Justice for All NC, which spent $1.7 million to influence the race, got 68 percent of its money, or $1.2 million, from the Washington, D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee. The group in 2010 spearheaded a Republican effort to elect GOP state legislators, who would determine the boundaries of congressional districts following the U.S. Census.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform gave $3.5 million to the RSLC in 2012, making it the largest single donor to the national Republican group last year. The Institute, a major foil of trial lawyers, lobbies for legislation that would mandate lower damage awards in civil trials.
The anti-Ervin ad was just one part of what appeared to be a coordinated effort between a network of groups with ties to the D.C. area to defeat Ervin and keep Newby on the bench. Officials from RSLC did not return calls seeking comment.
The neatest part of the CPI piece was this interactive graphic  detailing how the money flowed through from the RSLC, companies and other political donors to the group that put out the Banjo ad. (Below is a screengrab, click here  for the original graphic).
And, if you really want to relieve the campaign season’s deluge of political commercials, you can watch the Banjo ad as well here .