Raleigh, N.C. — I wrote earlier this year about the Republican Party's challenge to the state's "Stand by Your Ad" law, specifically the penalties it provides.
The N.C. Court of Appeals issued a ruling in the case today that did not take on the constitutional issues. In siding with the trial court's dismissal of the 2010 case, the judges actually hit on a pretty clear-eyed view of how legislative campaigns work. What was at issue was whether political parties were actually the sponsor of an ad and whether or not it mattered if the money in question moved through a candidate's campaign account.
In dismissing the case, the court said that former Sen. Joe Sam Queen – who was the plaintiff – had not fully complied with the law. Neither had Sen. Ralph Hise, who Sam Queen had sued. Even though Sam Queen disclosed getting money, and spending money, from the state Democratic Party on television ads, he did not ad the party as a "sponsor" of the advertising in his disclaimer. In other words: the Democrat wasn't completely honest about who was paying his campaign. From the ruling:
It is undisputed that the NCDP paid for the production of the message, or video, for the Queen Committee advertisements, and that the NCGOP paid for the production of the video of the Hise Committee advertisements. It is also undisputed that the Queen Committee advertisements identified only the Queen Committee as the “sponsor” of the advertisements; NCDP was not identified as a joint sponsor under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163-278.39A(e1). Thus, Senator Queen is not a “candidate for an elective office who complied with the television and radio disclosure requirements throughout that candidate‖s entire campaign,” and he cannot recover under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163-278.39A(f) even if defendants also violated the disclosure requirements because of the manner of the transfer of funds to American Media for the air time.
Whether this is the legally correct interpretation is something for lawyers to argue over. But it does pretty effectively pierce the conceit of current legislative campaign funding, in which parties bundle large amounts of money and pack it off to their most vulnerable and/or promising candidates.