NC pays more for GOP voting maps

Posted March 5, 2012

Voting map

— North Carolina taxpayers have shelled out $695,000 in the past year for outside legal help on the state’s new voting maps – four times what they paid in the previous redistricting cycle from 2001 to 2010 – and the bill is still growing.

According to public records obtained by WRAL News, Republican legislative leaders have paid $570,981 to the Raleigh law firm of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak and Stewart and $124,067 to the Washington, D.C., law firm of Jones Day. Both firms gave the state a 10 percent discount on fees.

The principal at Ogletree Deakins is Thomas Farr, a noted North Carolina redistricting expert who’s litigated other map cases in the past. Phil Strach, former legal counsel for the North Carolina Republican Party, also works for the firm. Both men have advised Republican leaders throughout the process.

Jones Day specializes in, among other things, helping states get their proposed maps through the U.S. Department of Justice's pre-clearance process. In this case, Republican leaders also filed suit in federal appeals court that covers Washington as an “insurance policy” in case the Justice Department was slow to respond. Jones Day apparently handled that, too.

A third contract between the state and Friedman Partners amounted to $3,240 for processing data from past elections and voter registration, a crucial step in determining where lines should be drawn.

In the 2001 cycle, run by Democrats, the cost to taxpayers was about $157,000 in inflation-adjusted 2011 dollars. In the 1991 cycle, the outside legal cost was about $106,000, adjusted for inflation.

Highly paid experts

The itemized invoices also show payments made through the law firms to outside consultants.

Final congressional district map, congressional voting districts USE THIS Lawyers, experts add to bill for redistricting

Through Ogletree Deakins, taxpayers paid GOP redistricting expert Thomas Hofeller $50,163 from last April through November. Hofeller has directed redistricting efforts for the Republican National Committee for the past three cycles.

Also through Ogletree Deakins, a second redistricting expert, Thomas Brunell, was paid $15,000 in June. Brunell is a political science professor at the University of Texas and author of the 2008 book, “Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections are Bad for America.”

Through Jones Day, the state paid $2,550 to Polidata, a political data analysis firm, for “general consulting.”

In the last cycle, only one taxpayer-funded consultant was listed: NC Democratic operative Kevin LeCount, who was paid about $2,500.  

Leaders defend spending

In a joint written statement, Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, and House Redistricting Committee Chairman David Lewis, R-Harnett, defended their expenditures.

“Our decision to retain award-winning representation at competitive rates has provided voters with the certainty that was lacking in the last redistricting process,” they said, calling the current cycle “the most efficient and successful North Carolina redistricting effort in modern history.”

Lewis and Rucho said their legal counsel had headed off potential disruptions or delays in the election process. “By investing in high-quality legal representation on the front end, we are saving a great deal on the back end,” noting that an extra election could have cost $5 million to $6 million.

The two chairmen also said the legal spending wouldn’t have been necessary “without plaintiffs bringing baseless lawsuits.”

No lawsuits against the redistricting plans were filed until early November. At that time, the outside legal bills had already surpassed $444,000.

“An obligation exists to defend the state, and so far, that is being done successfully,” added Rucho and Lewis, pointing out that Democrats also hired outside counsel in the past two cycles.  

Under state law, the obligation to defend the maps resides in the Attorney General’s Office. Attorney General Roy Cooper has had attorneys Alec Peters and Susan Nichols assigned to this case for months. Cooper’s office couldn’t immediately say how much that cost.

The outside legal fees are over and above those expenditures.  

'All the marbles'

Redistricting reform advocates say the hefty price tag is the latest evidence that partisan redistricting doesn’t benefit voters.

Damon Circosta, executive director of the North Carolina Center for Voter Education, said he isn’t surprised by the $65,000 spent on outside experts. He says Hofeller is “the GOP’s gerrymandering guru.”

Under the prior congressional maps, North Carolina's partisan split was seven Democrats to six Republicans. It's now likely to be 10 Republicans to three Democrats.

State House and Senate maps went from a slight Democratic edge to a landslide 3:2 Republican advantage in both chambers. 

“Everyone understands that redistricting is for all the marbles. That’s why they spent so much money – they wanted to make sure they locked this down,” Circosta said. “If you’re looking for somebody who knows how to draw partisan districts, these are your guys.”

It’s not just the Republicans, Circosta added.

“The Democrats would have loved to have had the opportunity to spend this kind of money for this kind of outcome,” he said. “In all this partisan squabbling, it’s the voter who ultimately ends up losing.”

He said the $695,000 spent on the new maps would be a substantial down payment on an independent redistricting process, like one used in Iowa.

Democrats: Costs 'excessive'

Democrats say Republicans shouldn't have used taxpayer dollars to draw themselves into power for the next decade.

"Clearly, Republicans in the General Assembly will stop at no expense to ensure that their extreme partisan majority is locked in for years to come,” North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman David Parker said. “Make no mistake about it, Republicans excessively used taxpayer resources to divide our communities, isolate minority voters and to further their discriminatory agenda against North Carolina's women."

In the 2001 cycle, said party spokesman Walton Robinson, Democrats raised private money to pay for the legal fight over the partisan maps they drew. He said Republicans should have done the same.

“They’re just using the taxpayer as a cash register,” Robinson said.


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  • Crumps Br0ther Mar 7, 2012

    I'm always amazed how Conservatives can keep saying the same lies over and over.....

    So its a lie if Daily KOS and HuffPo says it is? Simple enough. The SCOTUS basically said news organizations can lie, which people like to pick out about FOX, so if FOX can do it, what will keep the rest of the outlets from doing it too? Integrity? Yah right. They want FOX ratings numbers so bad. MSNBC anchors were almost in tears after Kucinich was voted out last night, no bias or slant there. You need to get out of your echo chamber and look around Haggis, they all lie, the Dems were just better at for awhile, now the shoe is on the other foot and now they want to play by the rules? Pathetic, shameful, and embarassing.

  • whocares Mar 6, 2012

    I don't know how much of my own tax money was used for this rediculous purpose, but I want it back.

  • dwntwnboy Mar 6, 2012

    "The old maps certainly weren't representative of North Carolina demographics. They were designed to keep Democrats in office - nothing less"- and the current maps are no better, only with a Republican twist. Would be nice to actually have representation based on locality and regional importance than these "maps" that criss cross around counties and cities giving no-one any clear representation. Should be based on area, draw a circle/square whatever- and THAT'S the district- these current "maps" are a joke at best. Both sides play this game and BOTH are to blame for the problems we are in.

  • BubbaDuke Mar 6, 2012

    Rebelyell55 - The Democratic party has been around since the 1790s; the Republican party has been around since 1854. The Democrats haven't changed, but sadly the Republicans have become like Democrats.

    The problem is that the American people keep making demands on the government. Every time we ask them to take over something that should be our responsibility, we surrender more freedoms in return for their 'help'. We want lower taxes, but we want the government to provide healthcare; we want a better education, and we want free contraceptives. We want to secure our borders and we want to do away with blind ballots for unions. Everything we demand comes with a price tag. The government cannot and should not be everything to everybody. We say we want less government but we all want our needs and wants met by someone else. We are a lazy people who refuse to learn from our history or from the failures of other forms of government, especially this penchant for socialism.

  • Rebelyell55 Mar 6, 2012

    The blame should be placed on those in the past who allow these two parties to gain so much control that now it's a standard for the tax payers to pay for their battles for control. For those who talk about one party or the others "control" for so many years, ya do realize the idealogy of these two party switched over the years in order to try and gain support of voters. Of course now it's all about the special interest group who control them. There is most likely not one person commenting on this board that if one party or the other is in power will benefit from it. All will end up paying more taxes in one form or another.

  • Pirate01 Mar 6, 2012

    It is the dems filing the lawsuits. So if you are looking for someone to blame that is where you need to go. The dems rigged these districts for decades and now they are acting like babies because they do not get their way anymore. The dems are acting like they are now financially responsible when they left a $3 billion budget shortfall. Which by the way the Republicans have now fixed!!!

  • josephlawrence43 Mar 6, 2012

    Tcheuchter: Lets try 140 years of Demo control that created and enforced and perpetuated the Jim Crow and other segregationist laws; drawing the district maps to as to prevent, or greatly restrict, the voting rights of African Americans. 140 years of Demo control in which state spending and taxes went only one way--up. And that is fact bubba--not speculation, not rumor and certainly not lies. Want to try some other liberal/leftist/socialist twist on history??

  • josephlawrence43 Mar 6, 2012

    If the petulant, whiney Demos would just accept the fact they lost, it would go a long ways toward saving money..

  • Tcheuchter Mar 6, 2012

    "Republicans are only cleaning up the mess left behind by 100 years of Democratic rule."

    [sarcasm font on]yes cutting education, bashing gays and sticking Govs nose into Doctors offices was way overdue[sarcasm font off]

  • Tcheuchter Mar 6, 2012

    "The real evil here is the fact that lawyers are needed at all. But hey we foolishly put lawyers in charge of writing law."

    really? hard to see who would be more qualified to write laws than lawyers.....

    " Is it any surprise that they would make sure that lawyers have job security and access to the taxpayers pockets?"

    when was it ever not so....in the US or anyplace else?

    "The Federal Government actually should have no say in this process at all beyond the stipulations of the Number of Senators and the total number of House members."

    LOL y'all lost that argument in 1865. Get over it, you lost.