More than $2.5 million raised so far by outside groups in state Supreme Court race

cjarvis@newsobserver.comOctober 30, 2012 

Money keeps pouring into efforts to retain state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby over challenger Sam Ervin IV, an appellate court judge – more than $2.5 million in total so far.

Newly posted campaign finance records show a huge infusion of out-of-state funding, including national Republican interests trying to protect redistricting maps.

There has been some independent fundraising for Ervin, but what has been publicly reported so far is nowhere near the amount being raised for Newby. Mailers by the umbrella group Common Cause Matters and N.C. Citizens for Protecting Our Schools have sent out mailers for Ervin, but their financing reports have not been posted by the state Board of Elections.

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. The Institute for Southern Studies, in an analysis Tuesday, reports the RSLC has a vested interest in keeping the GOP-drawn congressional and legislative district intact, an issue that will end up before the state Supreme Court, which currently tilts conservative 4-3.

Other newly disclosed contributors to Justice for All include North Carolinians for Affordable Health Care, which favors restricting medical malpractice lawsuits, $100,000; American Federation for Children, a Washington-based advocate for private schools, $100,000; N.C. Citizens for Freedom of Education, with a school-choice agenda, $10,000; and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which recently expanded its gambling casino in the mountains of North Carolina, $10,000.

There are a number of smaller contributions by North Carolina-based individuals and business interests.

Justice for All, in turn, has sent $720,000 to the N.C. Judicial Coalition, the super PAC formed to re-elect Newby. It is the force behind the cartoonish banjo ad, which portrays Newby as a tough-on-crime judge, even though criminal cases aren’t tried before the Supreme Court, and Newby had limited experience in criminal law during his 20 years at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Spending on that ad has now reached $1.6 million.

There are other outside groups supporting Newby, including the N.C. Chamber’s super PAC. On Tuesday, Americans for Prosperity announced a $250,000 campaign to send out 1 million pieces of direct mail.

The campaign is the largest judicial advocacy ad the organization has done anywhere in the United States, it says. Mailers will “educate citizens on Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby’s role in upholding the rights of everyday taxpayers….” The reference is to a 3-3 split decision in a case that challenged the governor’s authority to plug a budget deficit with highway funds.

Newby and Ervin have both received public financing for their campaigns, which limits fundraising to about $82,000 each. However, these independent expenditure committees – which have come to be called super PACs – can raise and spend unlimited money on their behalf; they just can’t coordinate with the campaigns.

Justice for All N.C. was registered as an independent committee in May by Amy Ellis, a certified public accountant who also was involved in fundraising for the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. She is the sister of former gubernatorial candidate Patrick Ballantine.

Jarvis: 919-829-4576

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