The NY Times published an op-ed on Tuesday involving the Junior Senator from North Carolina, Thom Tillis, that should make everyone cringe.
The Times piece was done by The Center for Responsive Politics, the people behind OpenSecrets.org. OpenSecrets.org provides tremendous insight into the money trail that runs through politics by linking donors, lobbyists, PACs, and candidates with campaign donations.
The op-ed covers how an unnamed donor pumped $4.7 million dollars into the "nonprofit" Carolina Rising "social welfare organization" during Tills's campaign against Kay Hagan for US Senate. That was pretty much everything the group raised and pretty much every penny of it went to support ads benefiting Tillis in the final weeks of the campaign.
Read the NY Times op-ed here. OpenSecrets.org has published
a much more detailed account here.
The major issue covered in these pieces is that Carolina Rising may have broken all kinds of IRS rules by effectively existing solely to support a single candidate. At the center if this controversy is information spouted by Dallas Woodhouse at the Tillis victory celebration on election night. Check out Woodhouse in this video from that night.
Woodhouse was recently named as the new Executive Director of the NCGOP.
Now, I don't know about you, but $4.7m seems like a lot of money to me. "Obscene" is the word that comes to mind. It conjures images of Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart saying “I know it when I see it” when he was describing how to identify pornography.
And of course, it makes one wonder what in the world does someone expect to get in return for spending that kind of money on a candidate's behalf???
We've outlined the dubious connections of two previous NCGOP Executive Directors to the I77 HOT lanes project. See here and here.
Could Mr Woodhouse make it a trifecta?
Where did that $4.7m come from?
Could it be from a person who could benefit in any way from the building of the I77 HOT lanes project?
$4.7m is tiny compared to the $650m construction cost of the HOT lanes, the billions in revenues generated over the course of 50 years of tolls, the billions more that can be generated if HOT lanes becomes the standard for major road projects in the state, or the profits from any land development projects that spin off around it.
There has long been speculation by opponents of the HOT lanes scheme that "somebody must be getting paid". The two most popular posts in this site's history revolve around cases of corruption involving the project's contractors and affiliated companies. See here and here.
Having an anonymous donation of this magnitude going to a candidate who carried a lot of water for the project certainly pours gas on that fire.
Of course, Senator Tillis could call on Carolina Rising to release the necessary information to disprove that connection. He could have his campaign supporter Dallas Woodhouse release it.
There may be absolutely no linkage between the two things. However, there is no way to know without the release and verification of that information.
Guessing that is not going to happen though, not without somebody being forced to do it.
A gut feeling says there's probably no direct connection. People with that kind of money to throw around are probably smarter than that if they were inclined to do something nefarious.
But then that's the problem with so called dark money, isn't it? We may never know for sure.