Friday, December 18, 2015

More Toll Related Fraley Campaign Finance Funny Business in NC95

A few weeks ago, we told you about a number of bright red flags in NC-95 Rep John Fraley's initial campaign reports when he ran last cycle.

Those dubious items included:
  • the large amount of out of state donations in addition to his own mega loan of $75,000 to his campaign
  • the use of paid campaign workers
  • the diversion of copious amounts of cash to hardball consultants closely linked to the Raleigh establishment
  • receiving a large donation from the family of Mayor Chuck Travis - a long standing supporter of the I77 toll project and a board member of the state's tolling authority.

As bad as that list is, unfortunately there's a bit more.

When Rep Fraley filed his year end campaign report in 2013, the first major report he filed, he served as his own campaign treasurer and did a very thorough job of capturing the required information from donors.  Maybe too good for some people's liking.

The State BOE website shows that in April of 2014, the Fraley Campaign filed an ammended report.

At first glance that April ammended report looks intended to just correct a couple of minor accounting errors.  A few dollars here and there are recategorized, nothing unusual.

However, one also notices the contact info on the donor list has also been "updated".

As previously mentioned, while serving as his own treasurer, Fraley had been very thorough.  Nothing was missing as far as contact info for donors goes.  For a first time report, that was actually pretty impressive.

The interesting thing about the updated report is that it actually removed info.  Every donor was reformatted and had some of the not required info provided in the original report struck from the report.

One donor had a bit more than that taken off.  Want to guess which one?

Out of 50 donors, only the donation from the family of Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis had more info removed.  Instead of the required address info it now just said "NC" - an error that does not meet the minimum standard.

Typically, ammended reports correct errors.  They don't introduce them.

Plus, when the only introduced error makes it more difficult to identify the source of a potentially embarrassing contribution, that is certainly something that makes one go "hmmm...".

So, how did this happen?

One tried and true "explanation" for this type of thing is to throw the campaign treasured under the bus.  Often campaign treasurers are the candidates themselves or other people who may not do these things for a living.  It is believable for them to admit a mistake and beg forgiveness.

However, that tactic would not really work in Rep Fraley's case.  You see, in February of 2014 Fraley changed his campaign treasurer from himself to one Collin McMichael.  McMichael signed the ammended campaign form with the eror.

Who is Collin McMichael?  He just happens to be the professional campaign finance accountant used by many of North Carolina's Federal Republican candidates.  According to,  McMichael's firm, CM&CO LLC , received $291,181 for its Federal work alone in the 2014 election cycle.

Who was CM&CO's largest customer that cycle?

That would be the Thom Tillis campaign.

That's the same Thom Tillis who is the godfather of the I77 HOT lanes plan, the same Thom Tillis who appointed Mayor Travis, whose wife made the donation in question, to the state Turnpike Authority, and the same Thom Tillis who had the dustup with former NC95 Rep Robert Brawley over the toll issue just before Fraley decided to primary Brawley last cycle.

So, here's the situation...

A high-dollar campaign finance accountant makes a "mistake" by removing information on a donation that could raise a few eyebrows.  It occurs around a highly volatile issue, and the people involved all have connections back to Senator Thom Tillis.

It could all be just an innocent coincidence, but it certainly is one of those things that make you go "Hmmm..."

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