As we sift through the aftermath of this week’s primary elections, folks should check out two new “must reads” from the state’s editorial pages about the bottom-of-the-barrel, big-money attack ads that infected the race for a state Supreme Court seat.
In this essay published in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer, Melissa Price Kromm of North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections and Bert Brandenburg of the group Justice at Stake in Washington, D.C had this to say:
“After years of avoiding the explosion in judicial election spending nationwide, North Carolina is quickly earning an unwelcome reputation. In the 2011-2012 judicial election cycle, more than $3.5 million was spent for just one state Supreme Court seat; more than $2.8 million of that came from outside groups.
The soaring independent spending in North Carolina is in keeping with national trends since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that unleashed unlimited independent spending on elections
These trends pose a disturbing threat to our courts – that justice might be for sale. Polling shows that almost nine in 10 Americans believe campaign cash is affecting courtroom decisions. Voters aren’t alone in this view; chillingly, nearly half of state judges agree with the same statement.
In North Carolina, the problem is compounded because the state last year eliminated a clean-elections program that furnished public financing for judicial elections. It helped insulate judges from the influence of moneyed special interests, so that judges could talk to voters instead of raising money from parties that appear before them in court.
Meanwhile, this editorial in today’s Wilmington Star-News had this to say about the race this fall between Justice Robin Hudson and her challenger Eric Levinson:
“This should be a race between two qualified judges whose differences are likely in how they view and interpret the law. Instead, it looks likely to deteriorate into a battle between high-rolling interest groups that are more interested in accumulating power than in what’s best for North Carolina.
Hudson and Levinson should make it clear that they will denounce any outside groups and ads that attempt to pull this campaign into the political gutter. Candidates have no control over what these independent groups do or how much they spend, but they have the power to distance themselves from the stench that ‘independent’ attack ads leave on the elections process.”