US Supreme Court decisions hit home today in two ways (not counting the Court-blessed, corporate-funded slug fest now going on between surrogates of North Carolina’s Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates). A lower court today ruled that the rescue funds provision of NC’s public campaign financing programs are illegal, because of the US Supreme Court’s decision in a case involving a similar provision in Arizona. In earlier litigation that went to the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the rescue funds provision was upheld. That case involved our judicial public financing program and the losing attorney, James Bopp of Citizens United fame, was delighted to bring the case back when the Supremes made their 5-to-4 ruling about Arizona’s similar provision. So Bopp won today – but the judicial public financing program is still very popular with Republicans and Democrats in North Carolina. In fact, even though they knew no rescue funds would be available if they were clobbered by some big spender, all 8 candidates for 4 seats on the state’s Supreme Court and Court of Appeals enrolled in the public financing program. It has its limits, but the private money chase is even more oppressive and debilitating.
Meanwhile, in another court action, NC Attorney General Roy Cooper joined the AGs from 21 other states and the District of Columbia in a “friend of the court” brief that urges the US Supreme Court to reconsider its Citizens United decision – or to at least clarify that the State of Montana should be allowed to regulate corporate-funded political intervention in the state’s elections. The Montana Supreme Court, recalling the power of the old Copper Barons, recently ruled that the public has a legitimate right to restrain corporate political spending, despite what the Citizens United decision says. It has effectively thumbed its nose at the 5 radical US Supreme Court judges who declare that corporate money can’t corrupt politics; most observers believe the 5 will not waver as they review the Montana case, but the brief by the AGs gives them the legal rationale to back off their extremist position.