Super PAC money floods NC Supreme Court races

An NC Supreme Court candidate forum held during the Federalist Society’s NC Chapters Inaugural Conference on Sept. 9, 2022, in Raleigh, NC. Courtesy of The Federalist Society

RALEIGH — Super PACs have spent over $9 million waging an internet ad and tv commercial war for and against candidates running for the state’s highest court with much of the spending arriving over the last month. 

Two of the seven high court positions are on the ballot in North Carolina this year.  Democrats currently hold a four-three majority on the court. 

Running for the seat of retiring Democrat Associate Justice Robin Hudson are Court of Appeals judges Richard Dietz, a Republican, and Lucy Inman, a Democrat. Republican Trey Allen, the current general counsel for the state court system, is challenging Democrat Associate Justice Sam Ervin IV, who is seeking another term.

The campaigns reported spending $5.5 million combined through Oct. 22. Inman and Ervin have spent and raised more money than their respective rivals, with Inman spending $2 million and Ervin almost $1.9 million. Allen, who also had a primary election, reported spending $844,000 while Dietz spent $773,000.

“North Carolina Families First, a liberal-leaning super PAC and player in state politics for several cycles, reported spending nearly $3.9 million as of late October on Supreme Court race advertising,” according to the Associated Press.  

North Carolina Families First (NCFF) was first registered with the state in 2011 as “North Carolina Citizens for Progress” by Raleigh-area attorney Michael Weisel. In 2014, the name was changed to NCFF. Documents on file with the state list Weisel as the “Director” of NCFF. 

Weisel appears to be the go-to attorney for left-leaning and progressive groups as evidenced by his name appearing as the registered agent of at least 49 entities per records filed at the N.C. Secretary of State’s office.   

In its latest 48-Hour Informational report, North Carolina Families First has spent over $3.26 million opposing Dietz and Allen ($2,972,000 each) between 9/30 and 10/19. Identical amounts were spent in support of Inman and Ervin during the same time frame. 

The most recent independent expenditures filings for NCFF show total receipts of $5,070,000 and $2,972,000 in expenditures.  

Among the receipts were two transfers totaling $2.2 million from “Make North Carolina First,” another entity Weisel registered in 2013.   

Another million came from two other Weisel registered groups; $600,000 from North Carolina Citizens For Protecting Our Schools and $400,000 from the Super PAC Strategic Victory Fund. 

Other notable receipts include $100K from the North Carolina Leadership Committee, $500k from former Obama U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee, and $600K from the NEA Advocacy Fund. 

NCFF’s Nov. 3 48-Hour informational report shows incoming funds of $645,000; $20,000 from the NEA and $625,000 from the Progress North Carolina Action Fund. The same report shows $471,341 in expenditures, the bulk of which went to ads supporting Inman and Ervin while opposing Dietz and Allen.  Progress North Carolina Action Fund is also run by Weisel and Schierbeek. 

Per the Associated Press, the independent expenditure group “Stop Liberal Judges” has spent close to $4.3 million in ads opposing Inman or Ervin. As of Nov 4. The only contributor to Stop Liberal Judges is a group called Citizens for a Better North Carolina and its largest donor is the Virginia-based “Good Government Coalition.” The Coalition’s donations this year have come from the Republican State Leadership Committee and the conservative GOPAC group. 

The N.C. Chamber of Commerce spent $1.35 million supporting Dietz and Allen, with the U.S. Chamber for Legal Reform as being the lone donor to the N.C. Chamber’s independent expenditures in the amount of $1.5 million, per the Associated Press.

About A.P. Dillon 1251 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_