Centerstage at the State Board of Elections

UPDATE: Link to WRAL coverage

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Lawyers, journalists and all manner of Puppets will be descending on Raleigh today for what could be one of the most important hearings ever conducted by the State Board of Elections (SBOE). At issue is whether North Carolina will be a state in which elections are contaminated by the free flow of corporate money.

Rob Christensen in today's N&O does a decent job covering some of the issues that will be aired over the next two or three days.

THE ACCUSER: [Richard] Morgan is charging that he and his allies were picked off by a Raleigh millionaire who illegally used corporate contributions to oust Republican legislators with whom he disagrees.

THE ACCUSED: Several groups connected to former state Rep. Art Pope, a Raleigh retail executive, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars criticizing Republican House members who allied themselves on some issues with Democrats. Pope says his company's donations were legal.

The center of the Pope machine is a 527 organization called Republicans for a Legislative Majority. RLM is the same organization that helped Willie Ray Starling eek out a victory of Stephen LaRoque, an election that is getting a do-over because of irregularities unrelated to Pope.

THE KEY ISSUE: Pope's company contributed more than $500,000 to groups that ran advertising campaigns against the splinter Republicans. The question is whether the ad campaigns should be defined as "electioneering" or "general issue advocacy."

North Carolina law bars corporations from directly contributing to campaigns, and restricts donations by individuals to $4,000 per election.

Pope argues that ads financed by his company did not say a particular candidate should be elected or defeated. He says the mailings are constitutionally protected issue advocacy ads designed to inform voters about how their lawmakers voted.

A KEY PHRASE: One mailing by a Pope-connected group asked voters to "Call Morgan out." Pope's lawyers say it was simply a baseball analogy. Morgan's lawyers say it is a barely camouflaged call for Morgan's defeat.

Here Christensen only gets at half the story, or maybe a third. While the "Call Morgan out" phrase is definitely a key factor in deciding whether RLM's activities constitute electioneering, I bet Pope's lawyers would love to fight that particular battle instead of the broader issues.

What are those broader issues? Well they're kind of complicated and the SBOE will find itself struggling with all of them.

One fight will be over whether Pope's mailings into Morgan's district were "identical or substantially identical matter?" Pope did a series of mailings at 4999 pieces each in order to get under the rule prohibiting mail drops of more than 5000. (Which goes to show you how fucked up the law is in the first place.) I wish I could post the mailers so you could see how similar they are, but unfortunately I don't have good scans. Trust me, though. Only an idiot could look at the many different mailings Pope funded and conclude they are anything other than "substantially identical."

Another issue involves whether the Pope Machine coordinated with the campaign by Joe Boylan to oust Morgan. Since Boylan is a hand-picked Puppet with strings already attached, it's hard to imagine that coordination didn't happen.


Finally, there's the phrase Christensen zeroes in on. "Call Morgan out." Some past cases in the area of electioneerign say there are key words that must be used in order to conclude "express advocacy." If the SBOE doesn't look at the broader picture and zeroes in on whether this word or that word was in the mailing, they might conclude "express advocacy" didn't happen. But if they open their eyes and look at the obvious intent and context, they'll see clearly that the Puppetmaster was engaged in illegal electioneering. Here's a scan of one of the mailers. Click on it and decide for yourself: Is this message designed to help defeat Richard Morgan?







WHY THIS MATTERS: This is not just a Republican food fight. The hearing could effect future elections. The groups that Pope used were nonprofit organizations known as 527s. If the elections board rules that Pope and his groups acted properly, it might encourage other corporations to spend money on advertising campaigns to help defeat candidates, bypassing campaign finance restrictions.

That's what's really at stake. The SBOE can give the green light to corporations in North Carolina to flood elections with money and literally swamp the effect of individual contributors like you and me. Or they can do the right thing and "Call Art Pope out" once and for all.

Some additional background information:


Sampling of Pope's contributions to RLM.
Your strings are showing.
Southern Pines Pilot weighs in.
More details on electioneering issues.

Comments

Excellent, excellent, excellent

Great summary of the issues and yes, Pope did break the law in my opinion. I wish it was a public meeting and you could attend to get the scoop.... Oh...there's that real job thing, right?


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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

I'll be out most of the morning

but unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of attending the SBOE hearing (and I'm not sure real people can get in). I'm hoping Bob Geary is there from the Independent, which will ensure we'll see full and balanced coverage.

I wish it was streamed...

but that would be too 21st century.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

Give them 30 years or so....




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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Todd, Excellent

I'm listening right now...and Blust well...


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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Pope sucks

By Pope logic you put out a mailer saying Pope sucks and as long as there was reference to Pope drinking soda with a straw it would not be electioneering. (Picture of Pope sucking goes here).

wait

let me get this straight... If you reference something that acutally happened then its issue advocacy. If you make something up its electioneering.

This answers a LOT of questions about politics in this country.

Lyndon Helton for NC Senate

"Keep the Faith"

Behind the irony curtain

I think Pope's position is that in a fiscal democracy every dollar has an equal vote and it's only electioneering if you actually go into the polling booth with a voter. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

WHO THE F!!!

who the f is this girl and where does she work? She just said that the phrase "replace" had nothing to do with endorsing or being against a specific candidate.

also, she doesnt remember ANYTHING. most of the money they spent in the last 6 months was spent on this race and she doesnt know?

i just heard ms. roister (?)...anyone got info on which group she works for?

Lyndon Helton for NC Senate

"Keep the Faith"

hahahah

if our state is run by people who are at all sane art pope is dead in the water. these people are really really bad at being dirty and corrupt.

Lyndon Helton for NC Senate

"Keep the Faith"

She's been role-playing

for weeks to play dumb. Looks like it sort of comes naturally.

Royster

Heather Royster is a registered agent of Pope's Republican Legislative Majority. She is actually a Variety Wholesalers staff attorney and was previously a staff attorney for the now-defunct NC branch of the Institute of Justice before being hired by Pope and running his NC Institute for Constitutional Law on an interim "voluntary" basis when it started up.

Claudia

I believe, is our own dear Sock Rats . . . part of the Pope Machine.

Man is this woman dense as a stump.

Smoking gun:

Boylan "anti-Morgan campaign" . . . this is the part where there was coordination between RLM and Boylan.

Bad news Puppetmaster.

dense is being light

"she sends a lot of emails. i dont read half of them"

"look at __. you did respond to her did you not?"

wow. just wow.

Lyndon Helton for NC Senate

"Keep the Faith"

Heather is either stupid or a liar

and probably both. She's worried about her boss going to jail, hence stammering over every fuzzy recollection she has.

My understanding is that

only one of the findings must be true to meet the standard of electioneering.

Looks to me like 'coordination' is already in the can, so to speak.

interesting

interesting point
i see clear admitting of:
coordination
electioneering not advocacy

Lyndon Helton for NC Senate

"Keep the Faith"

Slight change of topic

Im sorry if this has been answered before. But what is the recourse for Morgan and Laroque if pope gets in trouble over this?

Lyndon Helton for NC Senate

"Keep the Faith"

Lots of discretion.

They could require a new election, levy fines, etc.

If Pope is found in violation, though, you can count on appeal, never-ending lawsuits, charges of defamation, etc., etc. Basically your scorched earth policy.

Too bad, really. Pope's a smart guy. To be using all that intellect to subvert democracy is a real shame. His daddy would be proud of him. Two peas in a sleazy pod.

what about

A new election just seems insane. What about the others who are filed to run?

What im really trying to figure out is beyond destroying his ability to affect elections how does this effect people like van braxton?

Lyndon Helton for NC Senate

"Keep the Faith"

Who is

this wannabe lawyer?

OR,

to quote Mark Twain, "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."

WOW

he may be a republican consultant, but i want to hug this guy.
"these mailings have the purpose of opposing a candidate"
"they keep a challenger from doing their own research and their own mailing. the work has been done for them."

Lyndon Helton for NC Senate

"Keep the Faith"

This gets to "substantially identical"

Anyone with half a brain can see the mailers a substantially identical. Thematically consistent.

What the Puppetmaster did was slightly change the mailers to have them seem different enough to not trigger the "substantially identical" threshold.

He obviously failed at that.

He's not a very good speaker.

And, he almost seems unprepared.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.
-me

He's always been that way.

I think he tries to come off as just another guy. I think he's pretty smooth in his own down home way.

missed it

Right as I get back to the office and bring it up: Alright we will see everybody back at 930.
Sad.

Did anyone see the whole thing? I only caught like 2-3 hours while doing other stuff. I would like a summary, maybe as a new post?

Lyndon Helton for NC Senate

"Keep the Faith"

All the more reason to put Gerald Galloway

in the place Pope wanted and Morgan was in. He's a candidate who REALLY is interested in ALL the people in his district!

What a perfect day to post his interview.....
How did they know?

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.