@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Dems target Carolina Rising ads in two complaints

Posted October 9, 2014

This is a still image from an ad by Carolina Rising praising state House Speaker Thom Tillis' work on autism during the 2014 election.

— The North Carolina Democratic Party has filed a pair of complaints alleging that Carolina Rising, a nonprofit that backs Republican candidates and causes, failed to properly disclose its activities to federal and state regulators. 

Carolina Rising autism ad New ad emphasizes Tillis' work on autism despite bill's failure Both complaints address what Democratic Party Executive Director Casey Mann calls "systemic abuses" by the nonprofit group.The party, she said, "simply cannot stand idly by when local and national entities refuse to play by the rules and attempt to manipulate the system to shroud their donors and interfere with our elections."

Carolina Rising has aired three campaign-style ads this year backing House Speaker Thom Tillis, two of which praise his leadership on economic issues and another that touts his work on behalf of children with autism

The party's complaint to the Federal Elections Commission hinges on when nonprofit groups have to disclose their donors. Established nonprofits that pursue multiple activities usually don't have to say who gave them money, even when they air campaign-style advertising. 

However, that exemption doesn't apply if the money in question was raised for the express purpose of airing ads. In other words, if a nonprofit like Carolina Rising took money from people with the understanding it would be used in a political campaign, those donors would have to be disclosed.

The Democratic Party documented $2.8 million in spending disclosed by Carolina Rising for ads airing in September and October. 

"A newly formed nonprofit cannot purchase $2.8 million of airtime unless significant donations were made to the entity very recently," Mann's complaint to the FEC reads.

The party alleges that there's no other way Carolina Rising could have raised the money without it being earmarked to support Tillis. 

Carolina Rising President Dallas Woodhouse brushed aside the complaint, saying his group complies with the law. 

"This complaint is laughable," Woodhouse said in a statement. "It is the policy of Carolina Rising to only accept donations for general obligation purposes. As the president of Carolina Rising, spending decisions are mine in consultation with our Board of Directors. We have been successful in raising significant dollars this year because of our commitment to truthfully speak to issues and avoid personal attacks.

"As always, when Democrats can't win in the court of public opinion, they pull out their bucket of slime, lie about their opponents and run to big government and the courts for more bites of the apple," he continued. "It is a shame their party has turned against the First Amendment and free political speech."

While complaints over nonprofit spending in political campaigns have been well litigated in federal courts, case law on the issue of a new nonprofit funneling money into an election is scarce, said a lawyer familiar with campaign finance law. 

State complaint

In her complaint to the Secretary of State's Office, Mann points to a state law that requires nonprofits that solicit donations in North Carolina to obtain a charitable solicitation license. 

Carolina Rising does not yet have such a license, but it does have mechanism on its website that allows people to donate. 

"Carolina Rising is in violation of that requirement," Mann said. 

Woodhouse said that he has consulted with officials at the Secretary of State's Office before Mann's complaint.

"We do not feel we need to file under that section of the law but have agreed to do so. We have to the end of October to do so, which we will," Woodhouse said.

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  • Kenny Dunn Oct 13, 2014
    user avatar

    Another example of why the laws need to be changed. Even if it requires a Constitutional amendment. There is too much dark money in our political system. Not that it can be eliminated entirely, but it has gotten so the candidates don't really matter - just the outside money can control elections.

  • lilloan Oct 12, 2014

    Woodhouse is a complete slimeball in every political endeavor in which he has been involved.....all the way back to student gov't at Broughton High School in the late '80's!! No surprise now at his underhanded tactics....

  • Doug Hanthorn Oct 10, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    Uh, exactly where does Emily's List say they support late term abortions? Or is that just something you were told by your right wing masters?

  • Doug Hanthorn Oct 10, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    Uh, no. Emily's List is not an extremist group. That would be the right wing nuts who currently control this gerrymandered state.

  • miseem Oct 10, 2014

    "This complaint is laughable," Woodhouse said.
    "Carolina Rising President Dallas Woodhouse brushed aside the complaint, saying his group complies with the law.

    What is laughable is that the US Supreme Court ruled that groups like could truly act in a fashion totally unrelated and unconnected to a political campaign. And that it would have no impact on campaigns. All you need to do is look at the directors of these PACs and try to say with a straight face say they do not coordinate their message with the candidate. And this works for both parties, just the GOP and 5 members of the US Supreme Court act offended when anyone adds 1 and 1 and comes up with 2. If they say it's 11, we should blindly accept their rationale, or their rationale for their ruling.

  • paul2345 Oct 10, 2014

    Danny22 -- when the 'pro-life' crowd is crowing about taking care of neonate children, helping mothers of the children they 'save', pushing for better education for all these children, helping to improve nutrition for these 'saved' babies, and fight for equal rights for these children in the society in which they grow up, then the 'pro-life' position will not be hypocritical. What is more extreme - the pro-choice position of letting the woman and not others decide what she wants in her life, or the dictates of pro-life folks who claim moral high ground to prevent a woman's choice, but do nothing to improve her or her child's future?

  • HeelFanForLife2 Oct 10, 2014

    Is it any more extreme than the NRA that support any weapon, any time?

    I have no idea what Emily's list does or doesn't support, but there are extremes on both sides. And both sides will still take the support.

  • archmaker Oct 10, 2014

    hence the problem...there are easy excuses to get around the already weak laws. this complaint will go nowhere.

  • HeelFanForLife2 Oct 10, 2014

    View quoted thread


    Good point and valid question.

    Dallas contradicts his own statement with his later comment. Not unexpected at all.

  • Shelly McChesney Oct 10, 2014
    user avatar

    From the article: "because of our commitment to truthfully speak to issues and avoid personal attacks.

    "As always, when Democrats can't win in the court of public opinion, they pull out their bucket of slime, lie about their opponents and run to big government and the courts for more bites of the apple," he continued. "It is a shame their party has turned against the First Amendment and free political speech."

    So which is it, speak truthfully and avoid personal attacks or not? If you're doing nothing wrong, why the vitriol?