NCGOP says AG Stein is trying to “intimidate” political opponents

NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse speaks to media at Republican Party headquarters in Raleigh on February 23, 2018. photo by Lauren Rose, North State Journal

RALEIGH – The NCGOP says that a complaint from the N.C. attorney general’s office is a “disgusting” act of “rank intimidation by a political opponent.” In a press conference held Friday at NCGOP headquarters in Raleigh, executive director Dallas Woodhouse said that this week he was accused of unlawful robocalling in a letter with an attached Telemarketing Fraud Complaint from the Consumer Protection Division of the N.C. Department of Justice, headed by Attorney General’ Josh Stein, a Democrat.

The complaint had been filed with CPD on February 19 by Kimberly Reynolds of the N.C. Democratic party and accused NCGOP Executive Director, Dallas Woodhouse, of engaging in unlawful robocalling. Reynolds herself did not receive the purported robocall, but rather filed the complaint on behalf of the N.C. Democratic party. As is standard for receipt of online complaints, CPD issued a letter to the NCGOP attaching the complaint and seeking their side of the story.

The crux of the complaint pertains to North Carolina General Statute 75-104 which generally makes it illegal to make unsolicited robocalls to landlines and cell phones. There are exceptions to robocalling such as when the solicitor is a political party or political candidate. For the exception to apply, the solicitor must clearly identify themselves and the nature of their call. Reynolds’ complaint alleges that Woodhouse violated that provision of the exception by not providing distinct identifying information in a call and Woodhouse should be prohibited from making any further calls.

The North Carolina Republican Party says the Attorney General’s office engaged in unlawful voter and candidate suppression by sending a complaint that is impossible to answer. The party stated they can’t answer a complaint that is made anonymously in the name of another.

“The NCGOP’s actions are legal, but we can’t answer a complaint about a call we may not have made, possibly to a person that does not even exist,” said Woodhouse in an email. “A complaint that does not identify a person who is said to receive a call is absurd on its face and is just a way to scare the NCGOP from recruiting candidates.”

At the press conference, Woodhouse admitted to making robocalls to recruit candidates for office but prefaced that the robocalls were not of the type defined and prohibited by the statute. NCGOP General Counsel, Tom Stark, was also present at the press conference and stated that he has no doubt that the NCGOP is within compliance of the law.

Woodhouse said this is a “rogue abuse of power” and called for the CPD to immediately rescind its form letter with the attached complaint and for Reynolds to apologize. He also said that Gov. Roy Cooper should make clear that he supports both political parties’ right to run candidates for office.

“This is an egregious violation of the N.C. Republican Party’s rights and voters rights,” said Woodhouse.  “The NCGOP does feel threat of intimidation by the state’s police powers and action on civil rights and voting rights violation by the N.C. Democratic party and N.C. Attorney General’s Office in federal court is possible.”

In response to a request for comment, a representative from the N.C. Dept. of Justice—which houses the CPD of the Attorney General’s Office—stated that in submitting the form letter and attached complaint to the NCGOP, the CPD was following policy in asking for more information.

“There is no merit to any of these claims,” wrote Laura Brewer, NC DOJ spokesperson in an email. “Our office has no position at this time on whether or not those laws were broken in this instance  – we are merely asking for more information as is our standard practice.”