N.C. political parties lawyer up, trading offical campaign finance complaints

Gerry Broome—AP
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Roy Cooper

RALEIGH — As political campaigns across the Old North State leave it all on the field in their final push toward election day, lawyers for the Democrat and Republican parties trade official complaints regarding finances. With less than one week until election day, candidates and their parties appear to be working every angle in a gubernatorial race that remains too close to call.Kimberly Reynolds, executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party, filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections (SBOE) Monday, claiming the North Carolina Republican Party was illegally accepting funds that exceeded maximum contribution limits from political action committees.”…this letter serves as a formal complaint against the North Carolina Republican Party, the Republican Governors Association, the RGA Right Direction PAC, and the Pat McCrory Committee for their flagrant violations of North Carolina law,” reads the official complaint. “Recent campaign finance filings show that the Republican Governors Association has funneled more than $1.5 million in illegal contributions through its federal Super PAC into the coffers of the North Carolina Republican Party. The North Carolina Republican Party, in turn, has used these impermissible funds to try to boost the reelection campaign of Governor Pat McCrory.”In the complaint, Reynolds asks the SBOE to halt the finances in question, order the funds returned, and fine the “offenders the maximum amount permitted by law.”The SBOE requested the N.C. Republican Party respond to the specific allegations contained in the complaint. In their response, Chairman of the N.C. Republican Party, Robin Hayes, laments the shortened period offered to respond, but addresses the allegations and and launches a counter-complaint.”It is my understanding that the Republican Governors Association, and the RGA Right Direction PAC maintain careful accounts that are compliant with the laws of the states where State Parties will be receiving funds,” wrote Hayes. “Contrary to the premise of the Democrat Party complaint, there are no limits on personal funds received by the North Carolina Republican Party or any other North Carolina political party.”Hayes goes on to make a counter-complaint against the Democrats for engaging in financing schemes that violate the standards of their own complaint.”In the unlikely event that the Board finds the Democrat Complaint meritorious, it appears to apply as well to the operations of the Democratic Party and its operations,” writes Hayes in the counter-complaint. “Further, it appears that a number of Democratic organizations, including the Democrat Governors Association do not carefully segregate funds and assure compliance with North Carolina law.”Tom Stark, general counsel for the North Carolina Republican Party, responded to the complaint filed by the the N.C. Democratic Party with the State Board of Elections on Tuesday with his own letter to N.C. Democratic Party general counsel, John Wallace.”The Complaint with the Board of Elections wrongly accuses the North Carolina Republican Party of an unlawful receipt and expenditure of funds, and demands immediate repayment prior to the election,” stated Stark in his letter to Wallace. “…the Complaint neglects to mention that under North Carolina law, there is no limit on the individual donations to the state party organizations, and there is no limit on donations from the state party organizations to the candidates.”The N.C. GOP attorney calls the complaint “false and malicious”, and notes that the N.C. Democratic Party and the Cooper for North Carolina Committee also received funds above the individual contribution limit from the Democratic Governors Association. “Since you contend it is illegal for the North Carolina Republican Party to receive funds in excess of the individual contribution limits, you have an ethical duty to advise your own clients to become compliant to the law as you understand it,” wrote Stark, tongue in cheek.The N.C. Democratic Party has since amended its original complaint after additional contributions were made to the Republican political action committees after the investigation was initiated.”The violators were put on formal notice last Saturday that they were violating the law,” writes Reynolds in the amendment. “And yet, RGA continues to knowingly and willfully flout the law by making an additional $1.3 million illegal transfer to the RGA Right Direction PAC.”N.C. Republican Party general counsel Stark maintains that all contributions were done in accordance with the law. “Finally, it is our understanding that the funds received by the North Carolina Republican Party were properly contributed,” wrote Stark.In a poll released on Tuesday, the race for governor is a dead heat, with Attorney General Roy Cooper ahead by one point, well within the poll’s +/- 3.9 percent margin of error.