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Political Games? McCrory Gives Misleading Impression On Lawsuit Filing

The McCrory Campaign spent a week threatening to sue the backers of an ad that gives a misleading impression of his effort to secure tax breaks for a Charlotte-area company while he was mayor. The campaign has threatened to sue the TV stations airing the ad, too, but most have refused to oblige. Now, it's one thing to threaten a lawsuit. But to actually sue for defamation over a political ad is rare, because these cases are very hard to win. So it appeared to be a big deal when the McCrory campaign issued a press release Thursday evening with the headline: "McCrory Campaign Files Suit Against DGA And Liberal Front Group." That refers to the Democratic Governor's Association and North Carolina Citizens for Progress, which created the ad. But the McCrory Campaign has not filed what most people would consider a lawsuit. The campaign merely applied for a 20-day "extension of time to file a complaint." It's a legal maneuver the campaign's attorney says is typically used when a statute of limitations is running out. But the statute of limitations is not running out here. Instead, the filing is a just a placeholder - a way to amp up the pressure without actual having to draft a complaint. And in fact, unless the McCrory campaign files an actual complaint in the next 20 days, there is no lawsuit at all. Attorney Michael Weisel says this is just more "saber-rattling" from McCrory. He represents the Democratic Governors Association and North Carolina Citizens for Progress. "Pat McCrory seems to be very sensitive about discussions of anything about his past and has taken legal tactics and intimidation and bullying to a new level with this type of activity that's been going on," says Weisel. If the ad is as false and defamatory as the McCrory Campaign insists - why not actually file a lawsuit, instead of just a placeholder? The campaign declined to answer that question and says "it will not be commenting on this legal matter any further." Weisel says his clients are calling McCrory's legal bluff. They did file a complaint on Thursday, initiating a lawsuit against the McCrory campaign and asking a judge to rule on the validity of the attack ad. The move will force the McCrory campaign to back up its defamation claims in court and gives McCrory's opponents the ability to question him under oath about his business dealings.