North Carolina Judicial Primary Spending Exceeds $1.3 Million, Breaks Record

May 7, 2014

New York, NY - The last few days before the May 6th primary saw a surge in advertising expenditures, bringing the reported total in the North Carolina Supreme Court primary effort to oust Justice Robin Hudson to $1,319,686.

Ninety percent of the money was spent by two groups, Justice for All North Carolina and North Carolina Chamber IE PAC, who oppose Hudson. Had she come in third against her challengers, Eric Levinson and Jeanette Doran, she would have been forced off the general election ballot in November. But Doran came in third, and Hudson will face Levinson in the fall.

“The people of North Carolina need to know that judges are accountable to the law and not to special interest groups,” said Alicia Bannon, Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “As special interest groups continue to pump money into judicial races, Americans will rightfully question whether courtroom decisions are being influenced by campaign cash.”

“When this kind of money goes into a judicial primary race – regardless of the outcome – the question must be asked, ‘Is justice for sale in North Carolina?” said Bert Brandenburg, Executive Director of Justice at Stake.  “Judges are being forced to become more and more like politicians in black robes, raising money and support from parties who then appear before them in court.”

Among the independent groups spending to produce and air ads in the primary race is the North Carolina Chamber IE PAC, which on a state disclosure form has reported $225,000 paid to advertising agency Impact Strategies and itemized as charges for ads supporting Levinson and Doran. The group has reported contributions from a number of in-state industry sources as well as $50,000 in out-of-state funding from Koch Industries. FCC reports show the PAC's total airtime spending is $244,760, with ad buys at the following stations: WLOS, WSOC-1, WSOC-2, WRAL and WTVD.

Meanwhile, state disclosure forms to date indicate that the incumbent, Hudson, spent $86,320 with ad agency Media Partners, Inc., for a media buy. Her campaign also reported getting $84,099 in fresh contributions from April 28-May 1, led by $35,000 from Raleigh lawyer N. Victor Farah. Farah has donated a total of $80,569 to Hudson throughout the campaign. FCC reports show Hudson has spent $136,785 on airtime on these stations: WSOC, WRAL and WRAZ.

A state disclosure form for Doran shows no expenses for advertising media buys. 

FCC records show Levinson’s campaign has spent $185,141 under its own name for purchases on stations WJZY, WGHPWXIIWSOCWBTV, WCNC, and WFMY.          

FCC records indicate that Justice for All North Carolina is reporting $900,000 in its coffers as a result of an out-of-state contribution from the DC-based Republican State Leadership Committee, and has spent heavily on TV ads. So far, records show expenditures of $753,000 to place ads on several stations: WTVDWRALWSOCWBTVWXIIWFXI, WCTI, WRAL, WRAZ, WXLVWNCN, WCCB, WCNC,  WGHP and WLOS

The advertising expenditures documented to date come to $1,319,686. Campaigns’ itemized expenses for miscellaneous marketing items including signs, web design, and palm cards were not counted.

Additional data on TV ad spending in North Carolina will be released this week by the Brennan Center for Justice on their Buying Time 2014 page.

For more information on the role of special interest money in state Supreme Court races, check out the New Politics of Judicial Elections report by Justice at Stake, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.