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A new survey by a Republican polling firm finds that legislators may want to think twice before scrapping North Carolina’s embattled judicial public financing program. Here’s more on the findings from North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections:

‘The poll, conducted by a firm that has worked for Sen. Jesse Helms and many leading conservatives, shows that 67 percent of Republican women especially like the fact that the program has increased female representation on the state’s top courts – and by a 57 percent majority, they are less likely to vote for lawmakers who end the public financing option and allow money to play a greater role in judicial elections. Overall, a super-majority (68 percent) of voters said they would hold lawmakers accountable at the polls for ending judicial public financing.

Sixty-one percent of voters are particularly worried about the potential for corruption if the program is eliminated and say the program “should remain in place because even the hint of bribery is too much in our judicial system.”

poll released last month by the NC Center for Voter Education indicates the program has broad support, with backing by 67 percent of Republican voters and 65 percent of independents.

The new poll by the Republican-leaning Tarrance Group was commissioned by NC Voters for Clean Elections and delved into more specifics on voters’ feelings about the program. Leaders from both parties came together in 2004 to implement the Public Campaign Fund, in order to relieve judicial candidates from the big-money chase. Contrary to the pessimism about government programs, supporters say this one has clearly worked.

A majority of the NC Supreme Court justices are now women for the first time in history – and all have used the program to win election. Overall, 80 percent of appellate court candidates have used the program, including all four African-Americans appellate judges elected since 2004 and eight of the ten Republicans who won contested elections.

Despite years of success and bipartisan support, the program is under attack. The state Senate eliminates the program in its budget bill passed recently, and a similar provision was proposed by the governor’s budget. Read More

State Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson has announced that she will step down on Dec. 17, according to the News & Observer and WRAL.

Timmons-Goodson, the first African-American woman to serve on the court, was appointed in 2006 by then Gov. Mike Easley and re-elected to an eight-year term later that year.

Prior to serving on the Supreme Court, Timmons-Goodson was a Court of Appeals Judge  from 1997 to 2005.

She received her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, served as an assistant district attorney in Cumberland County from 1981 to 1983, and was then appointed to a district court judgeship and re-elected to that position in 1986, 1990 and 1994.

Gov. Beverly Perdue will appoint a successor, who will serve the remainder of Timmons-Goodson’s term, which runs through 2014.

For a non-partisan election, there’s a lot of conservative money being funneled toward the campaign to re-elect Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby. You just have to follow the thread.

And with just days left until the election, the superPAC NC Justice for All — the largest donor to the superPAC NC Judicial Coalition, formed to support the re-election of Newby – still has hundreds of thousands to spend.

It had little in its coffers through July, but since then the dollars have been rolling in. According to its third quarter report filed with the state board of elections on Oct. 29, Justice for All NC had received more than $1 million in contributions through Oct. 20, with another $338,000 posted after that date.

The bulk of that money — $860,000 — came from the Republican State Leadership Committee in Washington D.C., a group with a keen interest in the outcome of the redistricting case likely to land in the state Supreme Court over the next year or two. That’s an interest shared by several state conservatives who’ve donated to the RSLC – in September alone, Art Pope’s Variety Stores donated $150,000, western Carolina businessman Phil Drake, $50,000, and Bob Luddy (who also donated $25,000 to the Judicial Coalition) $50,000.

Thus far, Justice for All has spent $720,000 of that money to help the Judicial Coalition foot the $1.6 million bill for the airing of the “Newby Tough but Fair” banjo ads. It has spent little other than that, with $25,000 going to polling and another $16,000 on legal and accounting fees.

Also donating in a big way to Justice for All to help push Newby across the finish line are the pro-school choice American Federation for Children in Washington ($100,000); tobacco affiliate RAI Services ($100,000); pro-medical liability reform group North Carolinians for Affordable Health Care ($100,000); medical liability insurance company Medical Mutual ($75,000); and a number of smaller state PACS and individuals.

Justice for All was formed back in May by Amy B. Ellis — who also formed Vote for Marriage NC back in Nov. 2011 and ACT NOW in 2009. The committee’s stated purpose is to “promote justice for all citizens and support qualified candidates for judicial office.”

The outside spending spree on the race for a seat on North Carolina’s Supreme Court continues to set records. As Raleigh’s News & Observer reported this morning, a conservative group spent $1.3 million on one TV ad alone.

Interestingly, the spree has given rise to competing views from thoughtful sources as to what, if anything, we should do about all this.

The Charlotte Observer says that enough is enough:   Read More

A N.C. Supreme Court justice seeking re-election hasn’t yet provided the occupations and employers for most of his donors, disclosures required for most contributions under North Carolina campaign finance

Justice Newby

rules.

A review of campaign finance reports for statewide judicial races shows that N.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby neglected to include the information for most of the 742 contributions he took in at the end of 2011.

Campaign finance rules in North Carolina require the disclosure of donors’ professions and employers for contributions of more than $50 as a way to let voters see if a particular industry or special interest supports one candidate over another.

Newby’s missing occupational information sets him apart from his opponent Sam Ervin IV, an appeals court judge, as well at six candidates vying for three bench seats on the N.C. Court of Appeals, the lower of the two appellate courts.

All the other judicial candidates provided that information for more than 90 percent of their donors.

In Newby’s case, the occupational and employer information was included for less than 15 percent of the 742 contributions listed in a March 7 judicialdisclosure form with the N.C State  Board of Elections.

Newby also included information for less than 15 percent of the 335 contributions he took in that were over $50.

(Click here to see Newby’s contributors).

 

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