The North Carolina Judicial Coalition is a new tax-exempt organization, known as a super PAC, supported by wealthy conservative Republicans who are determined to make this year’s race for a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court ideological and expensive.
A Federal District Court in North Carolina last month, citing a 2011 Supreme Court ruling that rests on Citizens United, struck down a state law that provided additional matching funds to judicial candidates who accepted public campaign money if they faced greater spending from privately financed opponents, including independent expenditures.
By the Supreme Court’s upside-down logic, matching funds violate the free-speech rights of independent groups because their spending triggers additional money for a publicly financed candidate.
The North Carolina Judicial Coalition was set up to re-elect state Justice Paul Newby, who has opposed adoptions by same-sex couples and disallowed a lawsuit challenging alleged predatory lending. He gives conservatives a 4-to-3 advantage over liberals on the State Supreme Court and is being challenged by the more liberal state appellate judge, Sam Ervin IV, a grandson of the senator and son of a federal appeals judge.
As of last week, each candidate had collected about $82,000 and each had qualified for public financing of $240,100. Now, because the state is prohibited from reducing the spending gap with public funds, Judge Ervin’s supporters may have to form a super PAC of their own to keep up with the unlimited spending of the conservative super PAC. This is yet another example of the devastating harm caused by Citizens United.
McCain: And corporations are people, which is certainly [laughs] a phenomenal thought. And of course, that, that unlimit, that money does not really matter in elections. That unlimited amount of money will not affect elections. You know, today we’re watching a Republican primary where a Las Vegas media, gambling mogul has given over $20 million to one campaign, and a lotta that money comes from his earnings in a casino in Macao. So we now have, clearly, some Chinese money entering into the American political scene. And consider this one: We have a Senate race in Arizona. Suppose that ten people got together and put in $10 million each in a campaign. I guarantee you that would affect the outcome of that election. I mean, $100 million, a Senate race in the state of Arizona, which is a larger than normal-sized state, or Wisconsin. I mean, so what they’ve done is that they have unleashed the worst aspects of money in politics, and that’s what Russ and I tried to address, and we did address, and could I just finally say—and Russ, you might want to talk a little bit more about this—the phony suit, they, they’d, they shot a movie for the express purpose of going to the United States Supreme Court, for, that was the only reason why they made that film about our now Secretary of State.
Feingold: If it—
McCain: —unbelieve… Go ahead, Russ, I’m sorry.
Feingold: No, it feels like, you know, the whole thing was engineered, and you know, the fact is in 2004 and 2006 and 2008, there couldn’t be these unlimited contributions from corporations and unions. Because of McCain-Feingold, the money couldn’t go through the parties, and, you know, people started turning to the internet, and I think we actually were moving in the direction of, of real change, need to do more, I think we need public financing, I think, you know, John and I both think we need to have a, a real enforcement arm, not the Federal Elections Commission. But the trouble with this issue—and I think John would agree with this—is people have gotten so down about it, they think it’s always been this way. Well, it’s never been this way since 1907. It’s never been the case that when you buy toothpaste or detergent or 5 a gallon of gas, that the next day that money can be used on a candidate that you don’t believe in. That’s brand new. That’s never happened since the Tillman Act and the Taft-Hartley Act. And so people have to realize this is a whole new deal; it’s not business as usual.
I wonder about the effect of Citizens on ordinary political speech, over time. As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m helping a local candidate run for the Ohio legislature. Right now, we’re planning a spaghetti dinner at the Eagles. The tickets are eight dollars. People are being generous, and they’re sending 50 dollars for two tickets, but it really does start to seem ridiculous to even bother holding one of these tiny-donor events looking at the absolutely massive amounts of money that the very wealthy are bringing to federal elections and now, presumably, state races. I hope ordinary people aren’t intimidated or cowed or discouraged and thus chased out of the political process by the near-daily media reports of the BILLIONS that will be thrown at us here in Ohio in federal races, but I think eventually they will be if all these state campaign finance laws fall.