October 15, 2021/Media, Press

What To Watch In #NCSEN GOP Primary Ahead Of Q3 Reporting Deadline

Today marks the deadline for U.S. Senate candidates’ third quarter campaign finance reporting, and news stories from this week have revealed a few patterns emerging in North Carolina’s Republican U.S. Senate primary to watch out for underneath the fundraising numbers. 


  • Pat McCrory is still entangled with Lending Tree: After a “longstanding relationship” with the CEO, fraught with questionable ethics and “mingling his public and private roles,” the former governor turned U.S. Senate candidate is once again on the receiving end of Doug Lebda’s fortunes. As Business North Carolina reports, Lending Tree’s CEO is “by far the largest donor to a pro-McCrory campaign PAC with $250,000, and he and his wife have given maximum donations to McCrory’s campaign committee.” 

  • Trump’s influence is sending McCrory donors fleeing for Budd: Axios reported over the weekend that donors are “flipping for Trump.” In North Carolina, several former McCrory donors are jumping ship after former President Trump endorsed Ted Budd in the primary, escalating the tension among the primary rivals even further.


Read more: 


Business NC: Charlotte CEO is biggest donor to McCrory Senate super PAC


  • As he aims for a U.S. Senate seat, former Gov. Pat McCrory is benefiting from a longstanding relationship with one of the state’s most successful CEOs. LendingTree’s Doug Lebda is by far the largest donor to a pro-McCrory campaign PAC with $250,000, and he and his wife have given maximum donations to McCrory’s campaign committee.


  • Lending Tree has had a lengthy association with McCrory, with McCrory serving on the company’s board of directors from 2009 to shortly after he became governor in 2013. 


  • Lending Tree is the largest individual corporate stock in the former governor’s investment portfolio, according to an ethics disclosure filed in August. McCrory reported having between $100,000 and $250,000 in Lending Tree stock, possibly the result of a $171,000 stock payout he received in 2013 when he stepped down from the company’s board early in his term as governor.


  • The Associated Press reported at the time that McCrory and then Congressman Mark Sanford of South Carolina (who received a similar payout for his board service) did not initially include it on their ethics disclosures. McCrory’s latest disclosure form shows he holds stock in dozens of other companies, including Starbucks, Walmart and PepsiCo, but Lending Tree was the only stock where the value of his investment exceeded $100,000.


  • Asked if McCrory would recuse himself from U.S. Senate matters that affect Lending Tree, campaign spokesman Jordan Shaw said the former governor “will abide by all Senate ethics guidelines that govern issues like this.” He said McCrory “hasn’t done paid work for Lending Tree for several years.”


  • Lending Tree’s Lebda is the biggest financial supporter of McCrory’s candidacy for U.S. Senate. In June, he donated $250,000 to the Carolina Senate Fund, which describes itself online as “a super PAC devoted to independently advancing the candidacy of Governor Pat McCrory for the United States Senate.”


  • It’s had its share of controversies and legal challenges over the years, most recently an accusation from a subsidiary in 2019 that Lebda authorized a “fraudulent transfer” of a $40 million dividend while serving on the board of the subsidiary. The subsidiary made the claim during bankruptcy proceedings, and Lending Tree responded in filing that the claim had no merit, according to the Charlotte Observer. Lending Tree agreed to a $36 million settlement in 2020.


Axios: Flipping for Trump


  • Some high-dollar donors to former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory put their money behind Rep. Ted Budd, his U.S. Senate primary opponent, after Donald Trump endorsed Budd this year, records show.


  • The former president’s endorsement can be literal currency in Republican primary fights. The shifting allegiances between McCrory and Budd illustrate how Trump can single-handedly alter not just support but the money race in high-profile political fights.


  • David Congdon, the executive chairman of trucking giant Old Dominion Freight Line, gave the legal maximum to McCrory’s primary campaign in April, according to Federal Election Commission records.


  • In general, a Trump endorsement has the ability to affect voters’ and donors’ thinking in several ways.


  • He remains immensely popular among Republicans, who may be inclined to vote for his preferred candidates out of loyalty or a belief he has the party’s best interests at heart.


  • For that reason, a Trump endorsement also makes a GOP primary candidate more viable — and donors in particular tend to gravitate toward candidates with better odds of winning.


  • The ex-president’s notorious aversion to perceived disloyalty also may sway would-be candidates, donors and campaign workers concerned about drawing his or his political team’s ire.


  • Trump’s political sway is most apparent within the grassroots, and the North Carolina Senate primary has seen some smaller voters switch allegiances after Trump’s endorsement.


  • One retiree from Cashiers, North Carolina, chipped in $250 to McCrory in April. Four days after Trump backed Budd, she gave him twice as much.


  • Another retiree from Sanibel, Florida, gave $300 to McCrory in May. A month later, after Trump’s endorsement, he gave the same sum to Budd.


  • Both people donated to Trump’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns.


  • Looking ahead: Most of Trump’s GOP primary endorsements this year have come during the past few months, and any additional effect on donor loyalties will be more apparent in campaigns’ third-quarter fundraising numbers.