Dome: Mitchell says he had nothing to do with Ervin attack ad

From staff reportsNovember 5, 2012 

Liberal activists have been trying to force Burley Mitchell Jr., a former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, to disavow an attack ad aimed at Judge Sam Ervin IV, a candidate for the state Supreme Court.

The super PAC behind the ad tried to tie Ervin to disgraced former Gov. Mike Easley.

Why Mitchell? Well, although he’s a registered Democrat, earlier this year Mitchell agreed to lend his name to a new independent expenditure committee formed to raise and spend unlimited funds on behalf of incumbent Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby, whom Ervin in challenging. The committee was formed by several prominent Republicans.

Mitchell explained at the time that his longstanding philosophy was that incumbent justices should be re-elected if they are doing a good job. He expressed concern about the infusion of outside money into judicial elections, but said the candidates have limited options to reach voters since public financing puts a cap on how much they can raise.

Later, another former chief justice and Democrat, Jim Exum, also endorsed Newby. But it was Mitchell who agreed to be listed as one of the directors of the group, called the N.C. Judicial Coalition.

The Judicial Coalition has received substantial funding from another independent expenditure group, Justice for All N.C., which was also formed earlier this year and has recently disclosed more than $1 million of its funding has come from a national Republican Party offshoot. It was Justice for All N.C. that bought the attack ad, which began airing Friday in limited parts of the state.

Activists hoped to hold Mitchell’s feet to the fire – or at least make his association with what has turned into a nasty, big-bucks campaign an uncomfortable one.

Mitchell has responded to at least two of the activists with this email:

“Neither I nor any PAC, organization or person I am associated with has had anything directly or indirectly to do with the political commercial running I am told is running against Judge Ervin. Please ask whoever has told you otherwise to check their facts more carefully before misinforming you. Thank you for your interest in the judiciary, Burley Mitchell.”

It’s true that Mitchell’s super PAC, N.C. Judicial Coalition, didn’t buy that ad. But his super PAC is directly connected to the super PAC that did. The same TV ad production firm put out the attack ad, the infamous banjo ad, and a more sedate pro-Newby ad.

Orr endorses Atkinson

Republican former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr crossed the aisle to help Democrat June Atkinson in her campaign for reelection as state Superintendent of Public Instruction. He recorded a robocall for her that went out to voters Friday.

Orr, who ran for governor in the GOP primary four years ago, represented Atkinson in her successful suit against Gov. Bev Perdue to be able to run the state Department of Public Instruction.

Here’s a transcript of the call:

“I’m Bob Orr, former state Supreme Court Justice, and I support June Atkinson for Superintendent of Public Instruction. She is the only candidate with a distinguished long-term record of accomplishments in public education. June Atkinson has worked in a nonpartisan way for all the schoolchildren in North Carolina. Yes, I am a Republican and she’s a Democrat. But please join me in re-electing June Atkinson as state superintendent.”

Atkinson is running for a third term against Republican John Tedesco, a Wake County school board member.

Adding up the money

The presidential campaigns and their allies spent $69 million in North Carolina on political ads, according to NBCNews.com.

That was the sixth-highest amount in the country. There was $189 million spent in Ohio, $185 million in in Florida, $146 million spent in Virginia, $79 million spent in Colorado and $72 million spent in Iowa.

According to the National Journal, $45 million was spent to air pro-Romney ads in the state and $24 million pro-Obama ads that ran in the state.

The Obama campaign itselfspent $24.2 million in the state while the Romney campaign spent $17.1 million here, the National Journal Reported.

Other groups paid for additional pro-Romney ads: The Republican National Committee spent $2.1 million, Crossroads GPS spent $5.4 million, American Crossroads spent $7.3 million, Restore Our Future spent $6.8 million, Americans for Prosperity spent $4.4 million, American Future Fund spent $515,338 and Americans for Job Security spent $1.2 million running pro-Romney ads.

Staff writers Craig Jarvis, Lynn Bonner and Rob Christensen

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