Thursday, February 11, 2016

#NCGA: About those $15,000 boomerang checks...

The Charlotte Observer reported last week about the campaign coffers of Mecklenburg pols running for the NCGA.

In the report, the Observer reported, Rep Charles Jeter was "boosted by $16,000 from the House Republican caucus."

That of course would be a totally improper use of party funds since Jeter faces a Republican Primary opponent in Tom Davis and the party is not supposed to meddle in primaries.  It is also totally not true.

Yes, Jeter's campaign report shows a $15,000 contribution from the Republican Party House caucus on August 20th, 2015.  However, what the Charlotte Observer failed to report was that this money was returned to the caucus on December 1st, 2015.

So, what was that money shuffling really all about?  The answer to that is the real story.

Regular readers of this site will remember some stories from last year about shenanigans in the closing days of the NCGA long session - shenanigans  involving legislation for something called Affiliated Party Committees.  These committees if used would allow NCGA leadership to cut the state parties out of the campaign fund management loop. This was an effort by legislators to do an end run around the NCGOP after the top spots in the party apparatus were taken over by grassroots activists.

This money shuffling in/out of Jeter's account was part of a larger effort by the legislators to protect their money.  Or maybe another way to put it, it helped protect the money of the special interests that fill their campaign coffers.

As reported at, Jeter was not the only person to receive one of these $15,000 checks.  At least eight legislators received them.

Charles Jeter
Rob Bryan
Susan Martin
Nelson Dollar
Bill Brawley
David Lewis
Stephen Ross
John Szoka

As was mentioned in the linked Haymaker story, this was initially explained as an effort to bolster campaign funds for legislators in risky districts.  The Haymaker clearly debunked that explanation.  It might have applied to Jeter in NC-92 because that is one of the few partisanly competitive districts, but certainly it did not apply to several of the others.

No, this was an effort to secure the House Caucus money, from any possible use at NCGOP HQ.

A peak at all the latest campaign reports for the above mentioned legislators shows that they all received $15,000 checks in late August.  Most were returned in late October/early November.  Rep David Lewis was particularly generous adding an extra 10 grand for a total of $25,000 sent to the caucus.

During just the last reporting period, Lewis raked in $58,800 from special interest PACs. That's not counting contributions from individuals who may also be rated to those same industries.  When you see that kind of money flowing back up to the caucus and you look at the sources going to the legislators sending the money to the caucus, it's safe to say some of it is special interest money that the caucus was "protecting" when it did all this shuffling.

Jeter's $15,000 check was returned on December 1st - the first day of the filing period for this election cycle.  Jeter's check was one of the last 2 returned.

So, circling back to the beginning, no caucus money will be helping Jeter in his primary against Tom Davis.

HOWEVER, this does show that on Jeter's watch as Republican Conference chair there was some "three card monte" shuffling going on with caucus $$$ due to a lack of trust between GOPe legislators and Grassroots activists who had stormed the barricades at NCGOP HQ.

What happened between August when the Caucus money was drained from the accounts and when it was returned a few months later?  Establishment operative Dallas Woodhouse took over as NCGOP Executive Director.

You may remember the Woodhouse name from these posts regarding HOT lanes connections.  See here and here.  He was the staffer at the Tom Tillis supporting PAC that funnelled $4.7 million in dark money to Tillis's NCSEN campaign.

Putting a hard core establishment guy in charge of NCGOP HQ made sure there were friendly eyballs watching, making it safe to return the money.

Always, alwaaaaaays, follow the money!!!  It will tell you a lot!

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