Shadowy non-profit sets up TV studio for Dan Forest

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood for political propaganda:

A little-known group set up by the Lieutenant Governor's Office and headed by a major campaign donor has provided Lt. Gov. Dan Forest with enough television equipment to build an in-office studio. Forest's arrangement with the North Carolina Promotion and Development Fund appears to be unique in North Carolina state government. Gov. Roy Cooper doesn't have his own television studio, and neither does General Assembly leadership.

NCPDF is a 501(c)(4), also known by its IRS designation as a "social welfare organization." These groups are perhaps best known as political advertising vehicles for anonymous donors, and they're often called "dark money" groups. But attorneys who specialize in this section of the tax code said the category is much broader, and that the way Forest's office uses the NCPDF seems to be allowed under state and federal law, without disclosing donors, provided the group doesn't fund campaign activities. Neither "the studio nor any of the items purchased by the NCPDF have been or ever will be used for campaign purposes," Forest Chief of Staff Hal Weatherman said.

Aside from Dan Forest's inclusion in committees he's not really qualified for (like the Energy Policy Council), the man has no direct influence or responsibilities that would require him to "inform his constituents" about ongoing government matters. So this studio doesn't really serve or promote the office of Lt. Governor, it just promotes Dan Forest. And for at least one wealthy businessman, that promotion is worth a a big pile of money:

Longo has been one of Forest's most generous political supporters. He and his wife both gave $11,000 to the lieutenant governor's re-election campaign during the last cycle, then the maximum allowed by law.

He was the treasurer last year for Truth & Prosperity, a political action committee that supported Forest's re-election, and Longo gave that group $50,000. In 2012, he gave $75,000 to Citizens for Accountability, another pro-Forest committee. He and members of his family donated $40,000 directly to Forest's campaign.

Longo's company, Carolina Business Interiors, also was the lead donor on a 2013 remake of the Hawkins-Hartness House, the downtown Raleigh mansion that houses the Lieutenant Governor's Office. That project drew donations from more than half a dozen companies, and renovations at the house were estimated at $600,000, refurbishing a 137-year-old landmark at little cost to taxpayers.

Carolina Business Interiors has since provided more furniture to the office as part of a sprucing up this year that was valued at more than $72,600, according to documents Weatherman provided to WRAL News.

And of course North Carolina's extremely lax campaign limitations make such blatantly unethical "grooming of candidates" just fine and dandy. This stinks to high heaven.