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.


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

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 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


There hasn’t been much to cheer about in the General Assembly this session, but some of the good folks working to reform our broken and plutocrat-owned election system are finding some inklings of hope. Word on Jones Street is that there may be a chance that lawmakers will insert a provision into this year’s omnibus elections law legislation that will close a giant loophole that’s currently shielding a lot of big money from public view.

As Alex Kotch of the Institute for Southern Studies reported recently:

hidden-money-pieA measure that may come before the North Carolina legislature this session could bring to light millions of dollars in political spending that is now often disclosed days or weeks after TV or radio ads air or political mailers are sent out — and in some cases, even after the elections they seek to influence have taken place.

Due to a loophole in North Carolina law, some outside political groups — those that are not affiliated with a candidate and spend independently to influence elections — are not required to disclose their spending until after an election. According to current disclosure rules, these “registered” political committees, whose primary purpose is to support or oppose candidates for office, only need to report expenditures on a quarterly schedule during election years. Consequently, information about who paid for many television and radio ads aired and mailers distributed before last November’s state-level elections and how much they paid was not disclosed until January of this year.

In 2013 a bill that would have tightened disclosure requirements for outside groups, H918, passed the state House with wide, bipartisan support in a vote of 97 to 16 but then stalled. Had it passed, a Facing South/Institute for Southern Studies analysis finds, more than $7.1 million in outside election spending in 2014 would have been disclosed earlier, 71 percent of the nearly $10.1 million in total outside spending in the state.

Of that amount, $1.6 million would have been disclosed before the 2014 elections if the loophole had been closed. Instead, spending information was kept hidden until after voting had ended, making it difficult for the public to know what special interests were seeking to influence North Carolina elections.

Let’s hope this measure develops some real traction in the waning says of the 2015 session. Click here to read the rest of Kotch’s report and here for more information on the necessary legislation in a fact sheet from the folks at NC Voters for Clean Elections.