Governor's race heats up with litigation over TV ad

Posted May 25, 2012
Updated May 28, 2012

— Pat McCrory's campaign and the political committees behind a television commercial McCrory says is false filed competing legal actions that raise the ante in North Carolina's gubernatorial race.

The Democratic Governors Association and the group North Carolina Citizens for Progress filed a complaint in Wake County court asking a judge to rule the commercial about McCrory's connections to a Charlotte-based business as true and constitutionally protected.

The complaint, which names McCrory and his campaign as defendants, was filed Thursday morning, hours before the Pat McCrory Committee initiated civil action against the two groups. It has until mid-June to file its complaint, according to the paperwork.

"I think they were bluffing. We're calling their bluff," Michael Weisel, attorney for N.C. Citizens for Progress, said Friday.

McCrory and his campaign also have been threatening lawsuits against TV stations that air the ad, which started last week, and asked the Federal Communications Commission to get involved. McCrory is most angry about an accusation that he lobbied for real estate and lending business Tree.com while mayor of Charlotte and three years before he joined the company's board.

"It's a total lie and misrepresentation of the facts. It is deceiving, it's deceptive," McCrory said. "We're going to challenge these ads that are unfactual and that are character assassinations."

Weisel suggested that he would seek to question McCrory under oath in the weeks before what's expected to be a competitive election with Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton.

"The facts contained within the ad are absolutely accurate. We stand by them," he said. "There's a past history of perhaps making threats of lawsuits and then not actually doing so because it has its desired effect, which is to intimidate the press and your political opponents, their campaigns."

Pat McCrory Dems fire pre-emptive strike against McCrory over ad

The competing litigation comes less than three weeks since Dalton and McCrory won their respective primaries. The DGA and the Republican Governors Association have spent more than $1.4 million combined on advertising since then.

The RGA began running another ad Friday, seeking to firm up Dalton's policy ties to Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue, who isn't seeking re-election.

Perdue is the vice chairwoman of the DGA and is listed as a likely defendant in the McCrory's campaign lawsuit.

McCrory said he's never been a registered lobbyist for Tree.com. The 2006 letter McCrory wrote as mayor and cited in the ad asked the state commerce secretary to boost state economic incentives to discourage LendingTree, a Tree.com business, from going to South Carolina.

N.C. Citizens for Progress produced the ad but the Democratic Governors Association paid for it. Campaign finance reports show N.C. Citizens have spent more than $430,000 on its ad campaign. The commercial has been airing on Triangle, Triad and Down East television stations.

The group has made some changes to the attack ad, and the latest version clarifies the timeline of events. They said it makes the ad stronger, but the lawsuit still goes on.

McCrory's campaign said Friday the legal matters would be handled by the lawyers and that McCrory is focused on the economy and who is best prepared to be governor.

"We're not going to be sidetracked with a back and forth with a third-party group," campaign spokesman Brian Nick said.

Dalton's campaign lit into McCrory, saying his public pledge Thursday to run fair campaign ads this election rang hollow as the RGA ran another ad accusing Dalton of voting repeatedly for higher taxes while in the state Senate. The RGA has spent more $1 million on running a pair of anti-Dalton ads this month, RGA spokesman Mike Schrimpf said.

"For McCrory to stand before the media and call for a clean campaign on the same day that his political hatchet men launch yet another misleading attack is a new low," Dalton spokesman Ford Dalton said.

Nick said the RGA ads are based on voting records, not attacking someone's character.

Campaign rules prevent third-party groups from coordinating activities with candidate committees.

As the McCrory and Dalton campaigns blast away at each other, Libertarian candidate Barbara Howe planned to quietly launch her gubernatorial campaign on Saturday. The Granville County homemaker has run for governor twice before.


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  • fatchanceson May 25, 2012

    If we only elected morally qualified candidates - we'd never get through an election. Basically you got to look at these folks and ask yourself - which one will get things done and help point NC in the direction you want it to go?scousler

    What an ignorant and defeatest thing to say.... If you really feel we need to select the least of two evils... then we will forever be defeated... Surley... you can understand that...

  • Big Mike May 25, 2012

    I will not vote for anyone who places negative ads..shows inferiority in their ability to lead on their own record...I might be dumb but I'm not that dumb..

  • Lost and Loaded May 25, 2012

    NC again has no really good candidates for governor. Both of these guys have a history of either being close to corruption or actually committing it themselves.

    The libertarian candidate - a housewife with zero political experience - is probably more deserving on a moral basis.

    If we only elected morally qualified candidates - we'd never get through an election. Basically you got to look at these folks and ask yourself - which one will get things done and help point NC in the direction you want it to go?

  • geosol May 25, 2012

    What a shame - Use tried and true REPUBLICAN tactics in an election and they start shrieking and call for "legal action". Too funny! How does it feel, wingers?

  • Danny22 May 25, 2012

    I have always voted for dems and repubs but I'm completely turned off by Perdue and especially, Obama. This time I'm voting straight republican-We will have to fight our socialist-marxist prez every step of the way.

  • mmtlash May 25, 2012

    Has anyone else always noticed that in the ads that both sides use to bash the other side the person talking sounds like the voice used to advertise upcoming horror movies (aka movie trailers). The voice is only used when one side is trying to discredit the other, not when one side is trying to boost themselves up.

  • CarolinaTim May 25, 2012

    My apologies. You had two periods, that's a big improvement.
    Yea, we all know how Easley and Perdue have been so great for this state. Let's vote for more of that.

  • CarolinaTim May 25, 2012

    these republican think that the democrats are once again going to just sit back an not fight they on thie lies an untruthful accusactions. i dont beleive that this will be the case this go around for they citizens are getting to be more an more engaged in this currrent campaign than they have been for years an years because the thinking people of this state are finally waking up an relizing exactly wht is at stake here in north carolina an across this country with the likes of romney mccory scott walker an mitch mcconnalan lest not forget the wonderful mr karl rove an his little group of his buddys the koch brother an their millions an millions of dollars that they will be pouring in to this years election to get theri wall street buddus push in to office for the favor that they will get returned to them many times over. if an when they were to get elected vote no to pat mccory in this state thank you

    More ramblings with no punctuation, capitalization, numerous mis-spellings.

  • The Yoda May 25, 2012

    This thread is not worth commenting on, McCrory is going to win by a landslide going away. 100 years of Democrat corruption has turned the voters against the left. They made their own bed.

  • dcatz May 25, 2012

    McCrory and Dalton are both children that need to grow up.

    So what if someone said some mean things about you? I want the next governor to have a spine. When you start filing lawsuits, it makes you look like a sore loser.