Raleigh — With the Republican primary just three weeks away Congressman Walter Jones (N.C.-03) is taking legal action against his primary opponent, Scott Dacey, for an ad that his campaign says is “misleading” at a minimum. The ad, and the controversy, has made national headlines.
Dacey was served with a cease-and-desist order on Wednesday last week from Jones’ lawyers saying that the ad wrongly accused Jones of taking $80,000 from liberal billionaire benefactor George Soros. The Dacey ad says that “Trump’s enemies paid for” Jones’ campaign ads, pointing to money coming from the payment processing company, Democratic Engine. The company processes online political donations made with a credit card, and many of their clients are democrat campaigns and liberal advocacy groups, including some connected to Soros, but it is not owned by Soros, according to its CEO, Jonathan Zucker.
The cease-and-desist gave the Dacey campaign three days to take down the ad, or Jones’ would take it to the district attorney’s office. The campaign has not taken it down, so Jones filed a complaint with District Attorney Scott Thomas in New Bern.
“Scott Dacey is running a Washington style smear campaign paid for with Washington money. It might be OK to lie to voters in his world but not in Eastern North Carolina. I won’t stand for it” Congressman Jones said after signing the letter on Monday. “This isn’t just about Mr. Dacey. It’s about honest and ethical campaigning as a whole. The people of our area and our great Republic expect and deserve better.”
“The district attorney, Scott Thomas, his time is better spent fighting crime from our opioid crisis, not getting involved a civil matter,” said Dacey in a phone interview. “Scott knows that and the Congressman should be spending his time better too.”
“This is just political trickery and a rouse to cover what he’s been doing and we caught him.” He added.
The Dacey argues that Jones’ campaign is connected to Soros through Friends of Democracy, a former political action committee started by Jonathan Soros, George’s son, that focused campaign finance reform. When Jones endorsed campaign finance reform in 2014, Friends of Democracy put on their website a kudos to him along with a link to donate to Jones’ campaign. Jones reportedly said he met with the younger Soros to on how to recruit more Republicans to the issue.
“To suggest that there is not a connection here is laughable,” Dacey said Tuesday.
“But it shouldn’t be a great surprise,” he added. “They had him as their ‘House Champion.’ There were 78 Democrats on that site, and one Republican… Walter Jones.”
Doug Raymond, Jones’ campaign spokesman, says that in all the years the Friends of Democracy link page was up, they hadn’t gotten a donation until this past Sunday. That donation of $1 was made by Ryan Kane, Scott Dacey’s media & digital director, who told a local paper that he was testing the link.
“I know enough about politics to know that things don’t just come out of thin air, they are stretched,” said Raymond. “I had to figure out what they were stretching, and I found that it’s not just a stretch, it’s a Grand Canyon leap.”
Currently, Dacey, a Craven County Commissioner and lobbyist for the Indian Gaming Commission, is running about nine points behind incumbent Jones, according to polling released by the Civitas Institute last week. Dacey has set his strategy on unseating the twelve term Republican by focusing on Jones’ votes outside of the Republican majority in Congress.
Jones voted against the healthcare reform bill in 2017 and was the only Republican against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act saying he was concerned about its impact on the deficit. Dacey says it indicates that Jones’ is not in step with President Trump or Republican leadership, and N.C.’s District 3 overwhelmingly voted for Trump in 2016. His ads say that Jones has voted with Nancy Pelosi more often than his own party. Jones countered with his endorsement by Congressman Mark Meadows (R-11) leader of the Freedom Caucus and staunch conservative.
“We are going to send a message that you just can’t sit there and say ‘the polling shows I’m down, what’s the meanest, evilest thing I can do?’ “ said Raymond.
The complaint accuses Dacey of committing a Class 2 Misdemeanor by “knowing such a report to be false or in reckless disregard of its truth.”
“If you compare the way they are operating – ads coming out of D.C., slick ads with the deep voices – we are doing it all here in town and an intern at the radio station is doing our voiceover,” said Raymond. “That’s Walter, and he will win or lose over it. He isn’t going to change who he is because he’s in a tough primary.”
Jones has already announced that this will be his last run for the Congressional District 3 seat. The primary election will be held on May 8.