Turn about on tax returns. Who pay Progress NC?

Posted September 13, 2012

— When Pat McCrory stumps with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie today, "Hootie the Owl" will be on hand to ask "Who Pays Pat?"

Hootie has been dogging the Republican gubernatorial candidate's events this year on behalf of Progress NC and Progress NC Action, a pair of progressive nonprofits with ties the Democrats. Progress NC's thrust has been that McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor who now works as a business consultant for a law firm, should release his tax returns and a list of his clients. 

"Christie has a history of transparency with his tax returns, but will he tell Pat McCrory to do the same? Not likely. According to the Charlotte Observer, a leaked memo from the McCrory campaign has instructed Christie to not talk about McCrory's tax returns," a release from the group said today.

McCrory has said that his statement of economic interest filed with the N.C. Ethics Commission contains all the information he's required to release. 

"Every source of income he has is on that form," McCrory spokesman Brian Nick said of the SEI.

And conservatives backing McCrory have quietly suggested that more should be known about Progress NC, a 501(c)3, and Progress Action, a 501(c)4.

At WRAL-TV's request, Gerrick Brenner, the executive director for both groups, sent along the IRS form 990 for both group. The 2011 form, the latest available, gives rough outline of their budgets and operations.

But neither the 990 for the 501(c)3, which cannot directly advocate in a political campaign, or the 501(c)4, which is allowed to speak more directly about candidates and issues, lists donors for the group.

"We follow the rules of the road and the letter of the law, which are ultimately set by Congress," Brenner said. Neither group is required to disclose its donors. We asked him if he would voluntarily give a list of donors or top donors for either organization.

"We have donors of all shapes and sizes all across the state, who share progressive values about the value of funding our public universities and public schools, and smart investments like Research Triangle Park," Brenner said. But he declined to list specific donors. 

It's worth noting that the 501(c)4's board includes Brad Thompson, a former Raleigh city council member and former staffer for Sen. John Edwards, and Dean Debnam, CEO of Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling. The group has served as a mouthpiece for N.C. Citizens for Progress, a 527 group that has aired commercials targeting McCrory. 

According to their 990s, the two groups raised less than $200,000 combined in 2011, although information about what they have raised and spent in 2012 is unavailable. 

Brenner stressed his groups disclosed all they were legally required to disclose, which is an answer very similar to what McCrory says when pressed about his own returns. 

"To compare a nonprofit like us to somebody who wants to be governor, who is going to appoint regulators, members of the banking commission, members of the mining and energy commission...the comparison doesn't hold up," Brenner said. "They're just not equal. Progress NC Action isn't running for governor."

Brenner said that McCrory has also made a campaign issue out of "cleaning up Raleigh" and making politicians more accountable. 

"(He) refuses to discloses while he runs around the state talking about the need for a cleaner government and more transparency," Brenner said. 


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  • Mango Sep 19, 2012

    Wow, you sure give Progress NC a lot of power, leslie1019. If they managed to do all that in the short time they've been around then I'm definitely giving them my money. If they can shut down the mean-spirited, irresponsible rightwing in this state, I'm all for them.

  • turkeydance Sep 15, 2012


  • leslie1019 Sep 14, 2012

    This is a radical, irresponsible group that is no better than the Tea Party in its extremist point of view. They are an embarrassment to the true Democratic party of this state. Their very presence is what's wrong with politics today. Garrick Brenner is a joke and spends most of his time on Facebook. His board and other associates have contributed to the extreme behavior of both the far right and the far left. Laura Leslie is in cohoots with them and her reporting shows her bias toward the extreme left as well. If they were willing to show their donor base, you would find her on the list for sure. I agree this is not a story, the real story is the damage done to the political process and security of the country by extremist messaging. Again, Progress NC is no better than the Tea Party and a long way from the telling the truth. They, like the other side that spreads similar ideological half-truths should cease and desist. Or better yet, cease to exist.

  • pythiaspeaks Sep 13, 2012

    This is a non-story. Anyone seeking office should be transparent in their financial dealings. Period. WRAL's time would be better spent providing an investigative piece on Art Pope and the network of PACs he is bank-rolling. That would actually be useful information for voters. Perhaps "conservatives backing McCrory have quietly suggested" this story which is a diversion from the real issues voters need to know about.

  • james16 Sep 13, 2012

    What's with you guys? Last time I looked, Progress NC wasn't running for the highest elected office in the state.

    The assertion of false equivalency used to be the sledge hammer of Republican extremists. Sad to see it becoming a weapon of WRAL's not-so-dynamic duo.

  • Mango Sep 13, 2012

    Who cares who pays them? I'm just glad they're there and doing a good job of putting the progressive side into media coverage. For too long, conservatives dominated the media story lines. It's great to have someone fighting back. They've raised a lot of good questions about more than one official and more than one candidate.

    Now if they were going to have the direct power to veto (or not veto) bills, or the power to shape legislation, like McCrory is, I might feel differently about knowing who pays them. But they seem to make no bones about being progressive, so my guess is -- progressive donors are behind them. Why is that a surprise or a big deal?

  • faperrigo Sep 13, 2012

    Well done, Mark.