Raleigh – North Carolina House Republicans, including Speaker Moore and House Republican leadership, are intertwined and may have illegally coordinated with the outside independent expenditure group the Carolina Leadership Coalition (CLC), relying on the group for polling, messaging, advertising, and opposition research, according to a complaint filed Friday by the North Carolina Democratic Party.
The complaint spans several competitive House campaigns this election cycle. Republican incumbents and candidates who have benefited from this potential illegal coordination, either through paid positive advertisements for their campaign or negative advertisements against their Democratic opponent, include: Reps. Chris Malone (HD-35), John Adcock (HD-37), John Sauls (HD-51), Jonathan Jordan (HD-93), Mike Clampitt (HD-119), Nelson Dollar (HD-36), and Bill Brawley (HD-103); and candidates Lisa Stone Barnes (HD-7) and Chris Humphrey (HD-12).
“House Republicans, including Speaker Moore, are potentially illegally intertwined with a dark money outside group, relying on them to help direct their polling, advertising, opposition research, and even which constitutional amendments they put on the November ballot,” NCDP Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds said. “Protecting the sanctity of our elections is paramount. This brazen coordination warrants an immediate and full investigation. Any violations must be rooted out and punished to curb future efforts to undermine our elections.”
Illegal Coordination Between Candidates and Independent Expenditure Group
At the heart of the complaint is evidence of potential illegal coordination between House Republicans and CLC, an independent expenditure group. Political parties, caucuses, and candidates are expressly prohibited from coordinating with such outside groups.
- CLC was formed as a 501(c)(4) organization by several political affiliates of NC House Speaker Tim Moore, including two men serving on the Cleveland County Board of Commissioners. Despite designating as a 501(c)(4), CLC has been operating as an arm of the House Republican Caucus that has failed to file mandatory reports with the SBOE and is potentially illegally coordinating with House leadership.
- CLC, the Friends of Tim Moore Committee, and the Republican NC House caucus share a common fundraiser, Shook Consulting, LLC and its owner, Madison Shook. Not only did CLC and House Republicans share a common vendor, they potentially coordinated operations.
- The posting of polling data and opposition books was the product of improper and unlawful communications between CLC and the Republican Party. Communication between the Republican Party and CLC enabled them to utilize money from impermissible sources to cover the expenses of polling and opposition research, enabling the party and candidates to preserve their resources for other campaign obligations.
- Polling data on constitutional amendments appeared a month before they were introduced in the legislature. The polling on specific amendments would have been directed by House Republican leadership to determine which amendments would drive Republican voters to the polls.
In addition to potential illegal coordination, the complaint discusses CLC’s failure to report contributions and independent expenditures, unlawful contributions to candidates, and its failure to register and report.
Failure to Report Contributions and Independent Expenditures
CLC touts on its website several opposition research books, political advertisements, and polling data meant to help boost Republican candidates’ electoral chances. For example, in a polling presentation found on the CLC website, a spring 2018 poll evaluated numerous proposed constitutional amendments to discover which were “most likely to increase turnout among voters on the right.”
Each of these expenditures was made to help Republican candidates and therefore are independent expenditures that must be reported to the SBOE. No reports have been filed since 2016, though CLC spent more than $650,000 since 2016.
Unlawful Contributions to Candidates
CLC also made unlawful contributions to several candidates. CLC produced, printed, and mailed advertisements to support the Republican Party and its candidates. In doing so, CLC used funds, perhaps including corporate funds, that the Republican party and its candidates were prohibited from raising.
Failure to Register and Report
501c(4) non-profit organizations must spend half of their expenditures on issue advocacy. Even conservative estimates show that CLC has spent $300,000 on electoral activity this year, which is more than half of CLC’s activity. Therefore, CLC is not a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization but is in fact an unregistered and nonreporting political committee.
North Carolina Republicans have already faced criticism over similar tactics. The Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) over the summer after a July report in Politico revealed that Thom Tillis may have illegally coordinated campaign strategy with the NRA in 2014 through the use of a common vendor. Last spring, Tillis and the NC GOP also faced an FEC complaint for violating accepting excessive contributions and coordinating with outside independent expenditure groups.
The petition asks the SBOE to launch an immediate and full investigation.