Need to Push Outside Money Away
If nothing else, this year’s race for North Carolina governor ought to keep plenty of lawyers gainfully employed.
Already the two major party candidates — Republican Pat McCrory and Democrat Walter Dalton —are suing each other. Or, is it their shadow campaigns suing one another? I can’t keep track.
Whatever the case, the McCrory camp appears upset about an ad questioning his ties to the parent company of online lending exchange Lending Tree.
His campaign claims the ad, funded by the Democratic Governors Association and put together by a North Carolina group called N.C. Citizens for Progress, is false.
It filed papers indicating that it would sue, only to be pre-empted by the two Democratic groups, which filed their own lawsuit to keep the ads from being driven off the air.
Meanwhile, the McCrory shadow campaign has been running its own ads trying to tie Dalton to an unpopular governor, Beverly Perdue. In this case, that shadow campaign is the corresponding Republican Governor’s Association.
The back-and-forth reinforces an idea that I have held for quite a while: Politicians, generally speaking, would prefer to cut out the middleman in these affairs we call elections, leaving it to the lawyers, judges and media consultants. The middleman would be you, the voter.
Running to judges to sort through these messes is also entirely predictable, given how divorced from reality political ads have become.
Michael Weisel, a lawyer representing the Democratic groups, says the ad is factual and that the law is on their side. I have no doubt about the latter.
The ad, though, does imply that McCrory unethically used his position as Charlotte mayor to help the company, offering no evidence that occurred.
And the ads attacking Dalton characterize him as Perdue’s “right-hand man,” implying that a North Carolina lieutenant governor serves at the pleasure of the governor instead of being independently elected. (So, 40 years later, we now understand that Jim Hunt served as Jim Holshouser’s right-hand man. I’m sure that is news to both men.)
In response, McCrory recently called upon Dalton to join him in a pledge not run any “clearly unfair” ads. He didn’t define “clearly unfair.” His call also failed to take into account that Dalton and his campaign didn’t actually run the ad in question.
It was the product of a group operating independently of the campaign. These groups, including the new Super PACs, have become shadow campaigns to the actual campaigns. They run circles around the actual campaigns because they aren’t bound by donor limits and corporate donor prohibitions.
By law, candidates and their campaigns are prohibited from coordinating with the independent campaigns.
But there’s a difference between coordination and a candidate calling on these groups to cease and desist ads on their behalf, or urging donors not to give to these groups on their behalf.
If McCrory or Dalton want to take a meaningful step to clean up the nastiness, urging the outside groups to stay on the sidelines would be a good start.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association in Raleigh. Contact him at email@example.com.
More like this story