Controversial attack ad against McCrory returns amid legal battle

jfrank@newsobserver.comAugust 29, 2012 

A liberal political group is back on television with a nasty attack on Republican Pat McCrory -- this time airing in his hometown of Charlotte.

But N.C. Citizens for Progress' TV commercial is more a legal statement than a political score. The ad buy is just $6,000 for two days (Wednesday and Thursday) in Charlotte -- essentially a raindrop in the ocean, making it unlikely many voters will see it or remember it. (See a fact check on the ad here.)

It is more accurately aimed at a Wake County judge who is weighing the political group's lawsuit against McCrory's campaign, which is asking the judge to dismiss the case. N.C. Citizens wants Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway to protect its TV commercial from the McCrory's campaign's legal threats.

The legal fight began earlier this year -- when the ad first ran -- when McCrory's camp threatened legal action against TV stations if they didn't pull the ad and filed a lawsuit for defamation. The campaign didn't follow through but the damage was done and a couple TV stations pulled the ad.

N.C. Citizens tweaked its ad -- which is why McCrory's campaign said it dropped the legal case -- but the liberal group is trying to force the issue by putting it back on the air, even if only for a little bit. "It has a chilling effect," said Michael Weisel, the group's attorney.

Weisel said a Greensboro TV station is refusing to run the ad so it wants the judge to declare it constitutionally protected. It also wants to depose McCrory and see his tax returns.

"This is a complete abuse of the court system in North Carolina," Jack Hawke, McCrory's political consultant, said after the court hearing.

The judge said he would make a ruling in coming days about whether to dismiss the case.

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