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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,”

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It’s been a busy few weeks for the N.C. Judicial Coalition, the super-PAC formed to support the re-election of Justice Paul Newby to the state Supreme Court.

In its latest IRS filing, the group reported having received only $35,100 in contributions through the end of September 2012, with $25,000 of that coming from conservative businessman Bob Luddy, president of Captive-Aire Systems in Raleigh.

But the cash poured in early October, as the group spent nearly $400,000 in television ad buys for commercials to run through late October, according to filings with the Federal Communications Commission.

Those buys include the following:

WTVD (Durham) — $163,495

WNCN (Raleigh) — $21,390

WRAZ (Raleigh) — $18,940

WFMY (Greensboro) — $45,150

WXII (Winston-Salem) — $21,275

WLOS (Asheville) — $36,875

WBTV (Charlotte) — $66,140

WCCB (Charlotte) — $15,705

Additional ad buys for stations like WRAL (Raleigh) and WCNC (Charlotte), as well as for stations on the coast, may have been made or are pending, as the FCC filings show folders open for NC Judicial Coalition and N.C. Supreme Court campaign buys, but those folders were empty at press time. Read More

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Could it be that the very idea of a super PAC supporting the election of a state Supreme Court justice has scared away donors?

The much-hyped NC Judicial Coalition — formed back in April to support the re-election of Justice Paul Newby, according to one of its founders, conservative businessman Bob Luddy — filed its initial campaign reports with the state board of elections on Oct. 5 and Oct. 9.  According to those reports, the committee has received no contributions and spent nothing  through June 30, 2012.

That’s somewhat  surprising, given that former GOP chair and now lobbyist Tom Fetzer told the Charlotte Observer in June that the committee had already received “support”  from large and small donors across the state.

But the filed reports only cover a short period of time since the super PAC’s organization. More telling perhaps will be the campaign finance report due for filing on Oct. 29, just days before the election, which should detail contributions and expenditures from July 1 through Oct. 20.