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Abysmal fundraising period for Phil Berger, Jr., leads to questions about his powerful father’s influence, ethics scandals

by RFNC Staff

2019 end of year campaign finance reports trickled in last week following the January 31 deadline and included a few surprises, not least of which was Judge Phil Berger, Jr.’s, extreme cash disadvantage compared to the rest of the field of Supreme Court candidates.

Berger, Jr., ended 2019 with only slightly more than $93K on hand while fellow Republican candidates Paul Newby and Tamara Barringer have more than $400K and $200K, respectively. The Democratic field is similarly situated to Barringer and Newby, putting Berger, Jr., at a financial disadvantage.  

Berger, Jr.’s father is NC Senate President Pro Tem. Phil Berger and the younger Berger has been known to lean on his powerful father’s name. Based on Berger, Jr.’s, campaign coffers, it seems that influence may have dried up.

Notably, both Bergers have been accused of campaign finance ethics violations since 2018. Most recently, Sen. Berger faced scrutiny for using campaign cash to buy a house in Raleigh. Sen. Berger represents Rockingham and Guilford counties and claims to make his permanent residence in Eden, NC.

Berger, Jr., faced a broad campaign finance complaint in 2018. Among the violations in the complaint:

  • His campaign failed to disclose who paid for food, drinks and other expenses at 2016 fundraisers.
  • Several listed donors said they did not contribute to the campaign.
  • Two donors listed as alpaca farmers actually owned a gambling business.

The alpaca farmer confusion was particularly significant because the contribution came amid efforts by local law enforcement to close the gambling parlors. While Berger, Jr., was DA of Rockingham county he was known for telling police to “hold off” on going after similar gambling parlors.

Have these ethics violations made donors wary of contributing to Berger, Jr., despite his father’s influence? Judging from the recent 2019 numbers, perhaps.