October 3, 2017/Press

GOP PR Firm Stoked Political Response to GenX, Changed CFPUA Statement to Attack Gov. Cooper

Raleigh – A Republican public relations firm headed by a longtime GOP consultant unilaterally changed a statement from the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) to imply that all of New Hanover County felt Governor Cooper was not fully engaged on the GenX issue, new emails revealed.

CFPUA Executive Director Jim Flechtner originally drafted the statement as “confident in Gov. Cooper and the state agencies tasked with dealing with the GenX issue,” according to the Port City Daily.

However, Raleigh-based GOP public relations firm Eckel & Vaughan changed the statement without consulting any of the county commissioners. The new statement instead undercut the state’s ongoing involvement in the crisis and stoked a hostile position between CFPUA and the state.

Eckel & Vaughan was started by Harris Vaughan and Albert Eckel, Republicans with deep ties to the NC GOP and Republican lawmakers. Vaughan served as a consultant for the NC GOP in the late 90s and as a legislative assistant for U.S. Senator Launch Faircloth (R-NC). Eckel & Vaughan have long pushed conservative causes, including the 2013 tax cuts and anti-environment efforts including offshore drilling and fracking.

“Republicans in Raleigh are using every tool in their arsenal to attack Governor Cooper and turn GenX and clean water into a political game,” NCDP Executive Director Kimberly Reynold said. “It’s clear Republicans are motivated by one thing and one thing only: attacking Governor Cooper, even when clean water and the health of thousands is at stake.”

BACKGROUND

Eckel & Vaughan was started by Harris Vaughan and Albert Eckel, Republicans with deep ties to the NC GOP and Republican lawmakers:

  • Vaughan served as a consultant for the NC GOP in the late 90s [NC Board of Elections]
  • Vaughn served as legislative assistant for U.S. Senator Launch Faircloth (R-NC). [Eckel & Vaughan, Accessed 10/3/17]
  • Eckel previously worked for public relations firm, the Eddie Mahe Company, whose founder, Eddie Mahe, served as consultant to 3 chairs of the Republican National Committee and worked with Newt Gingrich and other Republican candidates. [Press Release, American Association of Political Consultants, 4/14/16]

Eckel & Vaughan has made its name pushing conservative causes, including tax cuts for millionaires and anti-environment efforts including offshore drilling and fracking:

  • Eckel & Vaughan did public relations work around the 2013 state tax reforms that included tax breaks for yachts, jets, and country clubs while eliminating tax breaks “that benefited working class taxpayers.” [Carteret County News-Times, 3/21/15; Associated Press, 12/30/13; H998, adopted, 7/23/13]
  • Eckel & Vaughan helped the American Petroleum Institute (API) “make energy a top issue for North Carolina voters in the run-up to the 2012 election.” [Facing South, 9/18/14]
  • Albert Eckel leads the NC Energy Forum as a part of a coalition to advocate for fracking and offshore drilling, and was once accused of bussing individuals from a homeless shelter in Winston Salem to hearing on fracking in Western North Carolina. [Facing South, 9/18/14]
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