Crime victims' amendment backers planning to spend $5M
By GARY D. ROBERTSON
Aug. 21, 2018
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Backers of a retooled crime victims' amendment to North Carolina's constitution are preparing to spend $5 million leading up to the referendum this November to differentiate it from other ballot questions that are facing criticism, the campaign's leader says.
The pro-amendment "Marsy's Law for North Carolina" started airing its first commercial statewide Tuesday, a $150,000 radio ad that also will be used in social media, campaign director Chris Sinclair said. Television ads will come later, he said.
North Carolina voters approved a crime victims' amendment two decades ago. Sinclair's group led the effort to get the Republican-controlled General Assembly to submit a referendum to expand those rights. It also would make clear that victims can seek redress in court when they feel their rights aren't being satisfied.
The amendment is one of six that Republican lawmakers voted to put on the fall ballot. The state Democratic Party is formally opposing all of them, calling them either unnecessary or — in the case of two — dismissing them as blatant efforts to take power away from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. Others would enshrine photo identification in the constitution, lower the cap on income tax rates and create the right to hunt and fish.
Spending $5 million in a statewide referendum campaign is significant. A committee that helped pass a $2 billion statewide bond referendum in March 2016 spent $2.2 million, according to campaign finance reports.
Sinclair said the $5 million would come from the national Marsy's Law organization, founded and funded by Henry Nicholas, the founder of Broadcom Corp. The group is named for his sister, who was killed in 1983 by her ex-boyfriend.
"We needed to get started now and cut through all the noise from 'Nix All Six,' which is really just a partisan approach to all the amendments," Sinclair said, referring to a catch-phrase from amendment opponents.
Cooper and interest groups have sued to block referendums on up to four of the amendments because the say the referendums are false and misleading, but the crime victims' question is not among those being targeted in the litigation.
The "Marsy's Law for All" group counts several states as having passed crime victims' amendments it helped get approved. Voters in North Carolina and five other states — Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and Nevada — will hold crime victims' amendment referendums this fall.
Sinclair said the North Carolina proposal has been two years in the making, with many alterations completed following input from prosecutors, law enforcement officers and victims' advocates. Despite formal Democratic Party opposition to the amendment, Democratic legislators voted overwhelmingly in June to put the question on the ballot.
The Marsy's Law movement has had to deal with Nicholas' arrest earlier this month at a Las Vegas Strip casino-resort on suspicion of trafficking heroin, cocaine, meth and ecstasy, police said.
At the time of Nicholas' arrest, Nicholas' attorney said his team is doing its own investigation and will "deal with the facts in court." A spokeswoman for "Marsy's Law For All" has said the allegations should not interfere with the cause of victims' rights.
Sinclair, who previously was a consultant for Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's 2012 campaign, describes the North Carolina pro-referendum effort as bipartisan. Veteran Democratic consultant Brad Crone is also working on the campaign. No group specifically opposing the crime victims' amendment has yet surfaced.