MOORE COUNTY – Remember the nasty primary battle waged by incumbent Sen. Tom McInnis & Company against conservative challenger Michelle Lexo? It ended in a flourish as McInnis and groups supporting him, including funds set up by Republican leadership, sent mailers maligning Lexo’s character.
The primary election is over with, but apparently Lexo’s campaign is not content to let McInnis and his cohorts get away with what they allege are violations of campaign finance laws as it relates to coordination. They have filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections.
“…defeated challenger Michelle Lexo’s campaign has filed a complaint alleging violations of campaign finance laws by incumbent Sen. Tom McInnis and groups that supported him.
Lydia Boesch, who served as Lexo’s campaign treasurer, detailed the allegations in a July 27 letter to Sheryll Harris, in the campaign finance division with the State Board of Elections. Patrick Gannon, a spokesman for the state board, confirmed that the letter was received Monday.
The allegations will be reviewed, and then a decision made on whether any action is warranted. Action could range from requiring amended campaign finance reports, to levying fines, or turning the matter over to a district attorney’s office for criminal charges.
Boesch’s complaints mainly target McInnis, who lives in Richmond County, and the NC Republican Senatorial Committee (NCRSC) — since renamed the NC Senate Majority Fund. The letter also raises concerns about campaign mailers paid for by the NC Chamber, NC Property Rights Fund, Homebuilders Educational Fund and Mainstreet Merchants for a Better NC.”
The complaint alleges that coordination exists between these groups to an extent that would require the McInnis campaign reporting of the outside groups’ help as in-kind campaign contributions, which he did not.
He actually says he had no idea about, or control over what the third parties sent out, but the mailers themselves literally say ‘Authorized by McInnis for State Senate.’
““A Moore County resident questioned Mr. McInnis about this ‘Paid for . . .’ designation,” she wrote. “He responded that the NCRSC was ‘loaning’ him money for the mailers. That seemed odd because, if it was a loan, the mailers would have said ‘Paid for by McInnis for State Senate.’”
Boesch included copies of each of the mailers with her letter.
She asserts in her letter that one of the reasons the NCRSC sent the mailers is because it was cheaper that what it would have cost if McInnis’ campaign had mailed them out.
“We have been advised by the owner of Red Dome Consulting that NCRSC had a contract with the U.S. Postal Service that allowed the NCRSC to send the mailers at 10 cents less than it cost Ms. Lexo to send her mailers,” Boesch wrote. “Mr. McInnis derived a benefit from the lower postal rate of the NCRSC. In addition to reporting the cost of the mailers as an in-kind contribution, he also should have reported this differential in postal rates.””
For some reason the NCGOP is chiming in on this complaint, with Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse pushing back against the allegation of coordination between the groups, and curiously defending the right of political campaigns and PACs of saying things they know to be untrue in order to affect an election outcome.
““We have all the confidence in the world that nothing illegal was done,” he said. “We did not coordinate with anyone. We don’t say what independent groups can do. Nobody has acted in any other way but honorably. … The alleged coordination, there is no proof.”
Woodhouse said many of the things alleged in the complaint are not unlawful in the first place, such as accusing groups of knowingly saying things about Lexo that were untrue. He said it is not up to the state elections board or any government agency to determine the “veracity” of political speech, which is protected by the First Amendment.””
That seems to be overly generous interpretation of statutes on things like libel, slander, and defamation. However, we are not lawyers…then again neither is the NCGOP executive director.
It will be interesting to see where this case goes. As much fun as it is to see Republican super-majorities push around the Democrats on Jones Street, it kind of loses its point if that majority doesn’t serve to advance conservative candidates and principles, and instead is merely out to defend their own Good Ol’ Boys club.
Read more here.