North Carolina: Poster child for big money in Supreme Court elections

Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice released an important new report today entitled “The New Politics of Judicial Elections,” highlighting North Carolina as one of the big spenders nationwide — and first in spending by outside interest groups — during the 2011-2012 Supreme Court election cycle.

In North Carolina, a 4-3 conservative majority was on the line in 2012 when incumbent Justice Paul Newby faced off against Court of Appeals Judge Sam Ervin IV. Estimated spending surpassed $4.4 million, shattering state records for judicial elections.

According to the report, North Carolina ranked fourth in overall spending for 2011-12 Supreme Court races nationwide, but first for independent expenditures by interest groups, at $3,841,998.

Independent spending by interest groups (as compared to political parties) was particularly significant in 2011–12.

This trend is part of the long shadow cast by Citizens United v. FEC, which paved the way for unlimited corporate and union independent expenditures in federal elections and in the 24 states that restricted such spending at the time of the ruling.

In North Carolina, for example, the Super PAC North Carolina Judicial Coalition, backed by conservative and business interests, spent nearly $2.9 million in its efforts to reelect incumbent Justice Paul Newby, making it the biggest spender in the state. (The report ranks the Judicial Coalition as fourth in the country in television advertisement spending).

North Carolina’s Supreme Court race was also targeted by the conservative Americans for Prosperity, a nonprofit social welfare group linked to the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, which spent $250,000 in support of Justice Newby—AFP’s largest judicial advocacy effort ever.

What makes this super-PAC spending worse is the difficulty the public has in identifying just who donors to the PAC, and ultimately to the candidate the PAC supports, are:

Many of the top-spending special interest groups in 2011–12 shrouded their agendas and donor lists in secrecy. Names like the . . . “North Carolina Judicial Coalition” leave ordinary citizens hard-pressed to identify spenders’ ideological or political agendas.

Top donors to the North Carolina Judicial Coalition, which was a major spender for television advertising in support of Justice Paul Newby, included Justice for All NC, the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, the North Carolina Republican Party, General Parts International, Inc., the Next Century Fund, and a variety of individuals. The Center for Public Integrity reports that one of these groups, Justice for All NC, received most of its money from the Republican State Leadership Committee, which in turn counted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform as its single biggest donor in 2012.

The Republican State Leadership Committee, which played a key role in the state’s 2010 redistricting process, is now front and center in the redistricting case pending before Justice Newby and his colleagues on the Supreme Court. Challengers to the plan have asked Newby to recuse himself from the case.

Read the full report here.

12 Comments

  1. david esmay

    October 24, 2013 at 11:55 am

    According to Republicans and the SCOTUS, corporations are people. I’ll believe that when Florida executes one.

  2. NitWitCharmer

    October 24, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    According to Republicans and the SCOTUS, corporations are people. I’ll believe that when Florida executes one.

    I’ll believe corporations are not people when you show me one without people.

    Or perhaps you can tell me which liberty we should do without first…
    1) the freedom of speech
    2) the freedom to assembly

    If you silence corporations which are nothing more than an assemblage of people then you believe in the unAmerican tradition of silencing people and/or the groups in which the assemble.

    If you believe in America you should take a look at the Tea Party. The Tea Party believes in individual liberty as outlined in the Constitution while deriding those who would demean your liberties which include both the freedom of speech and the freedom to assemble.

  3. Alan

    October 24, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    NWC,

    This has to be one of the craziest postings I’ve yet encountered…”corporations which are nothing more than an assemblage of people”. TIN.FOIL.HAT.CRAZY.TALK

    I have looked at the Tea Party, and all I see is an assemblage of flag waving, foaming at the mouth, knuckle-draggers, and part time civil war reenactors.

  4. Alan

    October 24, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    And one additional point, since NWC believes corporations are people, then surely that corporation should be paying taxes just like the rest of us?

  5. david esmay

    October 24, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    The Tea Party, Bwahahahahahahaha. Tri-corner tin foil hats with tea bags hanging from them licking the boots of their Koch overlords.

  6. LayintheSmakDown

    October 24, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Wonder if you guys (TM) are going to be putting stories up like this if Soros sends huge dollars NC’s way in a future election. I will be interested to watch the crickets chirp over here at the pulse.

  7. Alan

    October 24, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Oh…. I can definitely smell GOP panic in the air, The Grand Wizard and his cronies are on borrowed time.

  8. NitWitCharmer

    October 24, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Alan said:

    And one additional point, since NWC believes corporations are people, then surely that corporation should be paying taxes just like the rest of us?

    It is not at all clear to me why corporations are taxed in the first place.

    Why tax a thing that is entirely constituted by tax payers?
    Why tax a thing that simply passes those taxes off onto their customers, you and me?
    Why make an American job creator less competitive on the world market with taxes?

    Frankly, the whole concept of taxing corporations is extremely unAmerican.

    But then so are comments like this:

    I have looked at the Tea Party, and all I see is an assemblage of flag waving, foaming at the mouth, knuckle-draggers, and part time civil war reenactors.

  9. Alan

    October 24, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Well NWC…

    I guess I must fall into the unAmerican category that you think have taken over this country. It makes me proud that you think of me that way. I hope someday that you may think of me as a socialist/communist/fascist.

    FYI, corporations are taxed everywhere, so taxing a corporation makes it less competitive than a foreign corporation that pays taxes it it’s country? More tin foil hat crazy talk. II will give you credit though, you’re paymasters must be proud of your efforts.

  10. NitWitCharmer

    October 24, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Alan said

    FYI, corporations are taxed everywhere, so taxing a corporation makes it less competitive than a foreign corporation that pays taxes it it’s country?

    You are correct that corporations are taxed everywhere. You are, however, incorrect to assume that corporations from differing nations pay taxes at the same rate.

    The American rate of corporate taxation, for instance, leads the world. That puts American corporations at a competitive disadvantage relative to corporations of all other nationalities.

    Why do you support such hardship during jobless times?

  11. Alex

    October 25, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Alan learned everything he knows from his sidekick esmay, so I take his ranting and gibberish with a grain of salt. The best we can hope for is keeping him on his meds as regular as possible.

  12. LayintheSmakDown

    October 26, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Alan/bubba/dave/barry/Chris/Lindsay
    I think what you are smelling are the vultures circling the democrat party. Not fear, but excitement at what barry is doing to the economy with the Unaffordable Care Act will outweigh anything you guys (TM) are going to do in NC.