More than a decade ago, Pope strongly objected when the legislature created a pioneering campaign financing system for Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judicial elections.
“Candidate welfare,” he said at the time.
The voluntary program was celebrated by advocates of stricter campaign finance rules as a national model for limiting the ability of special interests to influence judges, by providing them with access to public funding.
“While other states were having just outrageous sums being spent on these statewide judicial races, North Carolina’s races stayed relatively inexpensive,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, a government watchdog group.
When McCrory introduced his first budget in 2013, the program had been eliminated.
Supporters scrambled to find a way to salvage it, enlisting state Rep. Jonathan Jordan (R) to sponsor an amendment that would allow it to continue in a scaled-down form.
The day the issue was set to be discussed in the House, Pope took Jordan aside in a hallway outside the chamber, arguing that the amendment was unconstitutional.
Jordan shelved his measure. The lawmaker, who received $16,000 in campaign contributions from the Pope family when he ran in 2010, did not return requests for comment.
Pope said it was appropriate for him to make the case about the merits of the governor’s budget to a state lawmaker, acknowledging that he has long personally been opposed to such public campaign finance programs.
Asked if he played a role in McCrory’s thinking, Pope said, “I gave my analysis and advice to the governor.”
This year, outside money has targeted North Carolina judicial races, including an $800,000 campaign that accused Hudson of being soft on child molesters. One of Hudson’s challengers was Jeanette Doran, former executive director of the Pope-backed North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law. She placed third in the May primary, but Hudson was forced into a runoff with another Republican.