Art Pope: Attorney fees for political campaigns unconstitutional

June 17, 2013 

Attorney fees for political campaigns unconstitutional

Contrary to The News & Observer’s over-the-top editorial, “Democracy undone,” on June 15, democracy worked in regard to ending a program to give public dollars to political campaigns.

As state budget director, I was asked in a joint conversation with a legislator and a liberal lobbyist for Common Cause about an amendment to the budget bill to use a fee on attorneys to finance judicial political campaigns. As have all state budget directors, under Republican and Democratic governors, I supported the governor’s budget and explained that the North Carolina courts have held using compulsory attorney fees for political campaigns to be unconstitutional, since such a law “compels political speech and violates their guarantees of free speech in the United States and North Carolina Constitutions.” (El-Khouri et al. v. State of North Carolina et al.)

The News & Observer called this routine event “scary,” repeating almost verbatim an attack by Chris Kromm, of the Institute for Southern Studies. What Common Cause and Kromm have in common is that they are members of the left-wing Blueprint NC coalition. Blueprint NC and its progressive allies have no interest in a reasoned debate and instead have launched a campaign to “eviscerate” and “cripple” elected Republican leaders, including using – in their words – relentless earned media efforts: operatives with relationships to statewide media; private investigators and investigative reporting; and an op-ed program.

Enter The News & Observer as the “statewide media” carrying out Blueprint NC’s attacks. The News & Observer tried to further justify its attack on me because, heaven forbid, I am also a donor to Republicans and conservative organizations. This attack is particularly hypocritical, given that Blueprint NC and its major members receive millions of dollars from the liberal Reynolds Foundation, run by former Democratic state Sen. Leslie Winner, with numerous Democratic Party donors and activists on its board.

Their attack also conveniently left out my longtime record as a former legislator for bipartisan judicial reform by ending the election of judges entirely and replacing it with appointment by the governor and confirmation by the legislature, when there was Democratic legislative majority.

The News & Observer repeating unfounded attacks by Blueprint NC members to eviscerate our elected government and shut down those they disagree with, is truly democracy undone.

Art Pope


The writer, a Republican, is the state budget director. The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the editorial.

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