Raleigh – Earlier today, in a hearing before the Select Committee on Redistricting, Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) confirmed that the unconstitutionally-elected Republican caucus has yet again hired Republican dark arts and gerrymandering expert Tom Hofeller to further subvert our state’s democratic elections.
Hofeller was the “chief architect” of the current legislative maps which the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional, and has made a living helping Republican parties across the country draw themselves into permanent power. Rep. Lewis’ confirmed that Democrats on the committee will not be allowed to meet with Hofeller, who will again be paid with taxpayer money.
Today’s news is a reshash of the hyper-partisan, hold-on-to-power-at-all-costs style of governance driving Republicans. Rep. Lewis admitted as much the last time Republicans drew maps. “We want to make clear that we … are going to use political data in drawing this map,” Rep. Lewis said. “It is to gain partisan advantage on the map … I want that criteria to be clearly stated and understood.”
When drawing Congressional maps – which the Supreme Court also found unconstitutional – Lewis said the goal was to draw maps to elect 10 congressional Republicans and three Democrats “because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.” Hofeller was the chief architect of those maps as well.
“Despite a unanimous Supreme Court decision reprimanding them for their undemocratic maps, Republicans have learned nothing,” NCDP Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds said. “Tom Hofeller has undermined every election he touches, and Republicans’ admission that taxpayer money will yet again be spent to rig the system shows that the only thing driving them is how they can hold a grip on power.”
BACKGROUND: The Atlantic Profile of Tom Hofeller
THE ATLANTIC: The League of Dangerous Mapmakers
By Robert Draper
Every 10 years, after U.S. census workers have fanned out across the nation, a snowy-haired gentleman by the name of Tom Hofeller takes up anew his quest to destroy Democrats.
Hofeller maintains an office at the Republican National Committee on Capitol Hill, though he is now the RNC’s paid consultant rather than, as in years past, its official redistricting director. At 69, he is a professorial if somewhat impish fellow (in his early days, a California House speaker dubbed him “the kid with the shit-eating grin”) who is more than content not to be a household name. His after-hours life includes singing tenor in his church choir and reading multitudes of books that seldom have anything to do with politics. Hofeller’s earliest clients included Democrats, and today he describes himself as a moderate Republican. The adjective is irrelevant, however. His chosen field is, according to Georgia Congressman and House Republican redistricting vice chair Lynn Westmoreland, “the nastiest form of politics that there is”: Tom Hofeller’s objective is to design wombs for his team and tombs for the other guys.
And so his cyclical travels take him mainly to states where the Republicans are likely to be drawing the new maps. (In most states, an appointed committee consisting of legislators from the majority party produces the map, which is then brought to the legislative body for a vote. Other states relegate the duties to an appointed commission.) At meetings, Hofeller gives a PowerPoint presentation titled “What I’ve Learned About Redistricting—The Hard Way!” Like its author, the presentation is both learned and a bit hokey, with admonitions like “Expect the unexpected” and “Don’t get ‘cute.’ Remember, this IS legislation!” He warns legislators to resist the urge to overindulge, to snatch up every desirable precinct within reach, when drawing their own districts.
But Hofeller’s helpful tips give way to the sinister warnings of a gimlet-eyed, semi-clandestine political operative: “Make sure your security is real.” “Make sure your computer is in a PRIVATE location.” “ ‘Emails are the tool of the devil.’ Use personal contact or a safe phone!” “Don’t reveal more than necessary.” “BEWARE of non-partisan, or bi-partisan, staff bearing gifts. They probably are not your friends.”
Be discreet. Plan ahead. Follow the law. Don’t overreach. Tom Hofeller relishes the blood sport of redistricting, but there is a responsible way—as Hofeller himself demonstrated this past cycle in the artful (if baldly partisan) redrawing of North Carolina’s maps—and also a reckless way. So that his message will penetrate, he tells audiences horror stories about states that ignored his warnings and went with maps that either were tossed out by the federal courts or created more political problems than they solved.
As the election returns rolled in on the evening of November 2, 2010, Hofeller had already started gearing up for the next round of redistricting. “I’m sitting and watching, less interested than many in the congressional races,” he recalled. “I’m the one saying ‘Okay, so we won Congress. The question is, are we going to keep it?’ And then what I see is that we gained 700 state legislative seats. The night just kept getting better and better. Things happened in some states”—in terms of controlling whole legislative bodies—“that we never expected. Alabama! North Carolina!”