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Poll shows NC voters want to retain campaign finance law for statewide judges

A new poll shows a majority of North Carolina voters favor the state's current system of publicly financing the campaigns of candidate for state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

The survey, finding 68 percent favor the program and 23 percent oppose, comes amid warnings that last year's multi-million-dollar campaign for Supreme Court Justice

Paul Newby's seat threatens to remake the campaign financing landscape. Newby won re-election over appellate Judge Sam Ervin IV, with a huge infusion of outside money.

Statewide judicial candidates can accept public financing if they agree to spending limits and refuse political action committee and special interest money. But with the emergence of "super PACs," which collect and spend money independent of candidates, those limits are meaningless.

Outside spending in last year's races passed $14.5 million

The Institute for Southern Studies has tallied up the final spending by outside groups in North Carolina political campaigns last year. The results are pretty much the same as the nonprofit public policy group came up with in November, but some of the updated numbers are worth noting:

The N.C. Supreme Court race drew more than $2.8 million in spending from independent groups. Eighty-nine percent of it was spent to elect Justice Paul Newby over appellate court Judge Sam Ervin IV. The N.C. Judicial Coalition spent $1.9 million to help Newby.

The governor’s race attracted more than $8.1 million in outside spending.

The biggest outside spender of all was the Republican Governors Association, based in Washington, D.C., which spent more than $4.9 million to elect Pat McCrory governor. National corporations are the big contributors to the RGA, along with North Carolina-based businesses such as Reynolds Tobacco, Duke Energy and Variety Stores (owned by state budget director Art Pope).

In all, more than $14.5 million was spent by independent groups. The Institute for Southern Studies has its numbers online at its website.

UPDATE:The liberal group Common Sense Matters spent close to $1 million. As previously reported, that group gets its money from the N.C. Futures Action Fund (which was involved in the Wake school board elections in 2011), the N.C. League of Conservation Voters, N.C. Advocates for Justice (the trial lawyers), America Votes Action Fund (a national liberal group), the N.C. Association of Educators, and a couple of Planned Parenthood entities. .

Newby super PAC $ keeps growing; agendas start to become clear

Money keeps pouring into efforts to retain state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby over challenger Sam Ervin IV, an appellate court judge. Newly posted campaign finance records show a huge infusion of out-of-state funding, including national Republican interests trying to protect redistricting maps.

Justice for All N.C., an independent expenditure committee created by Republicans in May, has sat dormant most of the year, at least on paper. But its third-quarter report and a subsequent filing show a sudden flurry of activity adding up to $1.3 million in receipts. A huge part of that -- $860,000 – comes from the Republican State Leadership Committee, based in Washington, D.C.

Newby not the only one benefitting from outside money

Justice Paul Newby isn’t the only one benefitting from an outside money group. An independent expenditure committee called N.C. Citizens for Protecting Our Schools is paying for a mailer supporting appellate Judge Sam “Jimmy” Ervin IV.

Meanwhile, Newby's hokey banjo ad is sweeping the state.

Politicized Supreme Court election

Let’s just stop pretending once and for all that judicial elections in North Carolina are nonpartisan. Candidates for the bench don’t have an “R” or a “D” next to their names on the ballot, but most go out of their way to stake out ground on the right or the left, just like any other politician. Or they have their surrogates do it for them.

It’s not supposed to matter, because judges are expected to rule impartially and fairly without regard to political consequences. But in the case of the campaigns for state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby versus appellate court Judge Sam Ervin IV, everyone knows that the current 4-3 conservative balance of the highest court is at stake.

Outside spending in Newby campaign soaring

The super PAC formed to re-elect state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby has spent more than half a million dollars on TV advertising, a scan of North Carolina TV station reports filed with the Federal Communications Commission shows.

The N.C. Judicial Coalition, created by prominent conservatives including Tom Fetzer and Bob Luddy, has been ramping up its air time in recent days.

Ervin ad responds to flow of Newby money in Supreme Court race

As the super PAC supporting incumbent N.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby begins buying TV commercials around the state, challenger Judge Sam “Jimmy” Ervin IV has responded with an ad critical of the unrestricted spending.

“The North Carolina Supreme Court should not be for sale,” Ervin says in the ad. “But so-called independent groups are spending thousands to buy a seat on the state’s highest court. Why are they spending all this money? What do they expect in return?”

(Update: The super PAC spent another $52,525 today at WRAL, bringing the total statewide to more than $440,000 at nine TV stations.)

Super PAC for Newby buying ads

The super PAC formed to re-elect state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby is starting to spending money on TV advertising.

The committee, comprised of key Republican figures in North Carolina, has not yet reported how much money it has raised or spent. But under new regulations, TV stations must disclose online political campaign ad buys.

A cursory look at stations around the state shows the N.C. Judicial Coalition has dropped nearly $164,000 for TV advertising and production at WTVD for 10 days of ads, and about $22,000 for another 10 days at WNCN; both stations are in the Triangle.

Campbell hosts state Supreme Court candidate forum

If you're still trying to decide between incumbent state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby and challenger Judge Sam "Jimmy" Ervin IV on the state Court of Appeals, Campbell law school will host a forum at noon Thursday at the school.

The hour-long event will allow both candidates to present their qualifications and take questions. It's open to the public. Campbell law school is at 225 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh. Parking is limited.

Newby's own ad is toned down

N.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby has released a TV ad that is considerably more toned-down than the hillybilly humor in the spot paid for by a super PAC supporting him.

The campaign's ad refers to the incumbent Newby as a "citizen-lawyer" who is endorsed by law enforcement (the N.C. Fraternal Order of Police). It also make a point of slipping in Newby's political credentials -- "honest, conservative leadership" -- in the supposedly nonpartisan race.

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