What, you thought shady campaign cash could only buy you a congressman? In North Carolina — a key swing state where the Democrats will host their convention this year — a local news report indicates that Republican millionaires are getting ready to plow outside money into local judicial elections.
In many states, judges are elected — a controversial practice that has been exacerbated by Citizens United and other U.S. Supreme Court decisions that totally eliminated any restrictions on campaign funding. The News & Observer explains:
Key conservatives have former the N.C. Judicial Coalition, a tax-exempt group that can take advantage of the recent ability to raise and spend unlimited money to support or oppose candidates. …
What’s new this time around is that while FairJudges.net could raise an unlimited amount of money from people, corporations and unions – in excess of the $4,000 that can be contributed each election cycle – it could not tell people to vote for specific candidates. Now entities like that can expressly advocate for candidates because of a Federal Elections Commission ruling in 2010 in the wake of two federal court cases.
The judge up for election, Paul Newby, is a conservative (he attended a rally supporting a ban on same-sex marriage shortly after getting elected in 2004) on a State Supreme Court that is divided 4-3. In other words, all sorts of regulations — of hometown business that include major banks (Bank of America) and tobacco companies could be gutted or upheld based on the success of the campaign. The News and Observer reports that the board of directors include “Republican heavy-hitters” like businessman and charter school entrepreneur Bob Luddy, former chairman of the state Republican Party Tom Fetzer, and former chief justice of the state Supreme Court I. Beverly Lake.
North Carolina right-wingers are not strangers to using outside money to shift key local races. It’s a technique previously mastered by Art Pope, the conservative, Koch-connected Tea Party mega-millionaire power broker.