Raleigh, N.C. — The executive director of Blueprint NC is distancing his group from a strategy memo that calls for inhibiting conservative policies by attacking top Republican leaders.
On Thursday, an electronic document that contained a polling memo, cover email and three-page strategy memo was leaked to reporters. The document originated with a source who attended a Blueprint NC-organized meeting of left-leaning groups but came to reporters through an intermediary. WRAL News agreed not to specifically name its source in order to obtain the documents in question.
The email from a Blueprint NC staffer describes a "talking points memo" as well as polling information.
"The email from Stephanie is referring to the slide deck, the POLLING MEMO and the data," Blueprint NC Executive Director Sean Kosofsky wrote in an email on Saturday. "This document from early December is not our document at all. We never drafted that. All these news outlets have been had.
"This is a James O'Keefe-style splicing of two radially different things," he continued, referring to a Republican filmmaker and provocateur whose work has frequently been called into question.
When interviewed on Thursday , Kosofsky defended his group's involvement with the documents, saying that it was appropriate for 501(c)3 groups to discuss ways to push their agenda. The Charlotte Observer reported Saturday that a major Blueprint NC funder was unhappy with the memo and reviewing its funding for the group.
"If you want to push against a policy, one strategy is to take advantage of your opponents weaknesses," Kosofsky said Thursday. He said Saturday that he did not realize the three-page strategy memo with the aggressive language was what WRAL News and other reporters were asking about. "Research is perfectly safe for your partners."
Kosofsky describes Blueprint NC as a "back office" for nonprofit groups, helping to coordinate activities and take advantage of economies of scale that small nonprofits would not have on their own. He insists the organization is nonpartisan.
Asked if he was saying Blueprint had never seen the document before, Kosofsky said, "That is not what I am saying. It is not ours."
"I think i have seen it at this December planning retreat, but it is not a Blueprint document at all," he added.
The three-page document is labeled a "North Carolina 2013 Legislative Strategy: Draft" but does not bear a date. The polling data included in the pack comes from late January and early February. Kosofsky insists that the two things come from different meetings and are not linked.
Asked it was appropriate for his organization to participate in meetings where such memos are distributed and whether he endorsed all the ideas in the memo, Kosofsky replied via email:
Darn right. C3 nonprofits should absolutely try to stop bad policies that hurt the poor and hurt the environment, women and the middle class. If they need to exploit weaknesses of lawmakers, they should. I stand by that.
The meeting in December was of over 50 organizations. People bring their own idea. I am not going to claim or distance myself from things without greater context. The only thing that matters to Blueprint is what Blueprint does. I cannot speak for others. We cannot be held to what others do at meetings we are at. that is completely unfair.
I am not going to cherry pick ideas from that draft plan and say which ones we approve of or disapprove of. I will say this...The stakes are high for the people of NC. This governor and legislature are approving raises for their cabinet while gutting benefits for folks already injured by unemployment. Blueprint and our partners are passionate advocates for policy passed in the public interest, not passed for special interests. Our partners can educate the public, educate lawmakers and absolutely hold them accountable when they vote against the interests of the people of NC. the public should know that charitable groups can and do advocate strongly. they should. Blueprint doesn't lobby or do any public advocacy. This isn't about us at all.
It is worth noting that many of ideas contained both in the polling memo and the three-page strategy document have shown up elsewhere.
House Minority Leader Larry Hall used language identical to the poll information in his response to Gov. Pat McCrory's State of the State speech. And groups linked to Blueprint NC have been using strategies such as calling McCrory's ethics into question.