Commentary, News

Report: Single donor gave $4.8 million to “issue ads” designed to elect Tillis


Sen. Thom Tillis

[UPDATED] In case you missed it yesterday, there’s a fascinating story percolating in the insider world of big money politics right now surrounding the group Carolina Rising, which was headed during the months leading up to the 2014 election by longtime conservative activist and current state Republican Party executive director, Dallas Woodhouse. (The Center for Responsive Politics has extensive coverage of this story as well — click here to read.)

Yesterday, the nonprofit watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service in which it alleges that Carolina Rising violated IRS rules surrounding the permissible activities of 501(c)(4) nonprofits. The complaint asks the IRS to: “investigate whether Carolina Rising…violated the tax code by operating primarily to influence political campaigns and for the private benefit of now-Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), and whether Carolina Rising and its president, Dallas Woodhouse, violated federal law by failing to disclose on its tax return nearly $4.7 million Carolina Rising spent on political activity in 2014.”

The gist of the complaint is that Carolina Rising acted, despite its claims to be an issue advocacy group, as a campaign organization that existed to get Tillis elected. This conclusion is boosted, the complainants argue, by Woodhouse’s own admission to a TV reporter on the night of Tillis’ election in which the following exchange took place:

Reporter: “You spent a whole lot of money to get this man elected, right?”
Woodhouse: “4.7 million dollars! We did it.”

In addition to the tax code issues raised by the complaint, another fascinating aspect to the story is the question of who funded Carolina Rising. This is from a summary of the issue posted by CREW yesterday: Read more


GOP solution to intramural money fight: More slush funds and more potential corruption

wb-9292015As reported in yesterday’s Weekly Briefing, Republicans have been attempting in the final days of the 2015 session to address an intramural battle over the control of campaign finance funds by allowing legislative leaders to create slush funds of their own that could act very much like political parties — i.e. not subject to many campaign finance limitations.

When this action provoked a firestorm of opposition from Tea Party Republicans (and even the possibility of a gubernatorial veto), however, the lawmakers solved the conflict by taking the amazing step of inserting a provision in the “technical corrections” bill last night that will give members of the Council of State, including Gov. Pat McCrory, the authority to set up their own “affiliated campaign committees” separate from party funds. WRAL has more here.

In other words, now there will be lots more political slush funds under the control of the state’s statewide elected officials! What could possibly go wrong?

We’ll have more details and analysis from campaign watchdogs on this provision later this morning. Stay tuned.


Must read: Editorial calls on McCrory to veto “slush fund” bill

In case you missed it, one of the weekend’s best editorials appeared in Saturday’s Greensboro News & Record. It blasted the General Assembly’s dreadful 11th hour addition to the already problematic bill to move next year’s primary election to March. A day after Chris Fitzsimon rightfully called the bill “what may be the most shocking piece of legislation passed in this General Assembly,” the N&R put it this way:

“It allows the creation of ‘affiliated party committees’ controlled by the speaker of the House, president pro tem of the Senate or House and Senate minority leaders. Bob Hall of the watchdog group Democracy North Carolina called them slush funds that could raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations or lobbyists, even during legislative sessions.

‘These changes take us backwards. They undercut the reforms adopted after the deal-making scandals involving House Speaker Jim Black a decade ago,’ Hall said in a news release Friday.

He should know. He and his organization initiated the complaints that led to federal corruption charges against Black, the Democratic speaker.

Hall added: ‘They give wealthy special interests new ways to dominate N.C. politics. And they create new ways for legislative leaders to sell access, steer money into their pet causes and exert control over other legislators.’”

The editorial concluded by calling on Gov. McCrory to veto the bill. And given that the measure only squeaked through the House by three votes, perhaps this once he’ll muster the courage. Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary, News

Elections watchdog slams political “slush fund” legislation; calls for McCrory veto

Good government and clean elections watchdog Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina issued a strong statement this morning condemning the bill passed by state lawmakers this week to move the state’s 2016 primary election to March. As Hall explains, the bill also contains “an unrelated terrible section that will greatly expand pay-to-play politics in North Carolina.” This is from the statement:

Section 3 of H-373 calls these slush funds “affiliated party committees,” but they are actually bank accounts completely controlled by one person – either the House Speaker, Senate President Pro Tem, or the House or Senate minority party leader. No money may be “expended except when authorized by the leader.”

Unlike a legislator’s campaign account, these new slush funds can accept limitless donations from lobbyists or corporations, even while the legislature is in session. Duke Energy, hog barons, gambling interests or a private contractor could pour money into a fund as a key bill is being debated. The money can be used to help elect or defeat candidates or for “daily operations” deemed relevant to the leader.

These changes take us backwards. They undercut the reforms adopted after the deal-making scandals involving House Speaker Jim Black a decade ago. They give wealthy special interests new ways to dominate NC politics. And they create new ways for legislative leaders to sell access, steer money into their pet causes, and exert control over other legislators.

Gov. Pat McCrory should veto this corrosive expansion of power for elites in the General Assembly. As a candidate, he pledged to fight pay-to-play politics and corruption. Now he has the opportunity to show leadership by vetoing this bill and calling for new legislation that only changes the primary election date.

Here are links to the bill and legislative staff’s summary:

Here are two news stories about the changes:


Today’s big news story is the subject of next week’s Crucial Conversation luncheon

Today’s big top-of-the-fold story in Raleigh’s News & Observer will be the subject of next Tuesday’s N.C. Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon. As the N&O reports:

“Millions of dollars poured into North Carolina political campaigns in recent years in a futile attempt to keep the video sweepstakes industry legal – much of the money at the direction of a man later charged in Florida with racketeering.

The free-wheeling spending on politicians, lawyers and lobbyists has raised suspicions, although one probe, by the state elections board, found no campaign finance violations. Campaign and ethics watchdogs hope state or federal prosecutors will pick up the trail and investigate more deeply.

The elections watchdog group Democracy North Carolina, whose complaint prompted the two-year elections board inquiry, now wants the U.S. attorney and the Wake County district attorney to determine whether laws against corruption, bribery or other offenses were broken, and for authorities to take another look at potential election law violations.”

Come join us next Tuesday as we get the full scoop on this troubling and thus far under-reported story with the watchdog behind it — Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina:

Bob HallSweepstakes industry corruption: How far does it go? What should be done?
Featuring Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina

Join us as Hall explains his findings, what Democracy NC is asking prosecutors to do and the overall state of political corruption in North Carolina politics today.

Click here to register

When:Tuesday, August 25, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Click here for parking info.

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or