Raleigh, N.C. — A strategy memo circulated recently among liberal-leaning groups prescribes "crippling" legislative leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory with bad press and pressure tactics.
The memo, which was first reported by The Charlotte Observer, details communications strategy, political tactics and polling data that progressive groups can use to push the policy agenda in Raleigh, where Republicans control both the governor's mansion and the legislature.
According to documents included with the memo and interviews, the strategy outline was produced by Myers Research and Strategic Services for Project New America. It was originally provided to Progress North Carolina, a liberal nonprofit that has aggressively attacked McCrory during the 2012 campaign and his early term in office. Progress North Carolina shared the memo with Blueprint NC, a nonprofit that coordinates the activities of liberal-leaning nonprofits. In turn, Blueprint NC distributed it to its member organizations.
An electronic version of the memo appears to contain at least three separate documents. One is an email from outgoing Blueprint NC Communications Director Stephanie Bass describing the material and emphasizing that it is "CONFIDENTIAL to Blueprint, so please be careful – share with your boards and appropriate staff, but not the whole world."
Sean Kosofsky, Blueprint NC's director, said his group did not pay for or commission the research. "We were just forwarding it on," he said.
On Saturday, two days after this post originally published, Kosofsky distanced his group from most inflammatory parts of the document, although acknowledged it was distributed at a meeting organized by Blueprint NC. Click here to read more about what Kosofsky says about the controversial memo.
The second document is a "talking points memo" that outlines strategies for progressive groups. Policy wins for the political left, the memo said, would likely be defined as "mitigating" legislation, rather than pushing their own agenda items.
"The most effective way to mitigate the worst legislation is to weaken our opponents' ability to govern by crippling their leaders (McCrory, Tillis, Berger, etc...)" the memo reads, referring to the governor, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.
The memo goes on to describe a "potential two-year vision" during which the groups would "eviscerate the leadership and weaken their ability to govern."
The bulk of the document is a poll memo that talks about how to frame opposition to conservative tax and education policies. The survey was conducted between Jan. 29 and Feb. 2.
It's worth noting that there are both conservative and liberal nonprofit groups that provide similar strategy and research. The conservative Civitas Institute, for example, commissioned a tax plan that tracks closely with ideas offered by Republican legislative leaders in December and January. And they have been part of a drumbeat of criticism against Democratic officials and bureaucrats who served them, most recently focusing on the State Board of Elections.
Francis X. De Luca, president of the Civitas Institute, objects to the comparison.
"We have always stuck to policy and legislative disagreements. We try and leave the personal attacks to the left," De Luca said.
Republican strategists and operatives, some of who talked to WRAL News on background, said the memo puts the lie to liberal criticism of groups like Civitas, which are in large part funded by foundations tied to Art Pope, a former legislator who now serves as McCrory's budget director. Several said it showed Democrats didn't want to cooperate with Republicans leaders.
"I think it's shameful," said Ray Martin, caucus director for state Senate Republicans. "This is who is in control of the Democratic Party in North Carolina, radical left-wing zealots."
Paul Shumaker, a longtime Republican strategist based in Raleigh, said the document is far from shocking.
"It comes as no great surprise that, now that Republicans are in control, you are going to have those stationed on the left attacking conservatives," Shumaker said. "I'm sure they feel like this is just what was done to them when they were in control."
Shumaker pointed out that conservative nonprofits regularly questioned the ethics and conflicts of interest of former House Speaker Jim Black and former Govs. Mike Easley and Bev Perdue.
The memo indicates there are close ties between the liberal groups and the Democratic Party itself.
For example, a response to McCrory's State of the State address earlier this week delivered by Rep. Larry Hall, D-Durham, tracked closely with slides from the poll shared by the liberal groups.
Hall's prepared remarks included this sentence: "Cutting funding for public education is wrong because it hurts our children's ability to succeed and compete for the jobs of the future." A slide from the polling memo includes the phrase, "Cutting funding for public education is wrong because it hurts our children's ability to succeed and compete for the jobs of the future."
Hall could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.
Casey Wilkinson, chief of staff for the House Democratic Caucus, said the similarities aren't surprising. It is likely, he said, that the polling provided to the left-leaning groups was provided by the same company, or one similar, that the party uses for its research.