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Campaign finance laws are a joke to the NC GOP

At a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. David Rouzer, NC GOP Chairman Robin Hayes was recorded making comments that have raised questions around campaign finance laws. 

“This is an envelope. You have heard things that should inspire you to dig deep tonight. But federal law says you can only give, you and your wife, $5,200 to David Rouzer,” Hayes told attendees (the individual federal spending limit is actually $5,400).

“But,” he continued, “you can take this envelope, put money in here and give it to your friend and citizen, Robin Hayes, who happens to be party chair and I can take unlimited money and put it to his campaign, legally.”

Most of this statement is false, according to both state and federal campaign finance law. Federal law prohibits state organizations from earmarking general donations for specific candidates. Additionally, contributions from party organizations are limited to $5,000.

This is not the first time the NC GOP’s leadership has been publicly flippant about campaign finance laws.

In 2014, now-executive director Dallas Woodhouse ran Carolina Rising, a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization. Tax filings showed that Carolina Rising spent $4.7 million on pro-Thom Tillis ads during his competitive 2014 Congressional Race against incumbent Kay Hagan.

Because of Carolina Rising’s 501(c)(4) status, it was only required to partially disclose donor information, but according to the New York Times, “98.7 percent of the group’s revenue came from a single donor and…virtually every penny of it was used to further the cause of Mr. Tillis’s campaign.”

501(c)(4) outfits are also barred from functioning “for the private benefit of an individual or select group.” Carolina Rising’s ads lauded Tillis’ work in the North Carolina State House but never explicitly asked viewers to vote for Tillis.

However, on election night, when Woodhouse was asked about the “whole lot of money [spent] to get this man elected,” he responded, “$4.7 million. We did it.” He later claimed that his “overly excited election night comment” was “not reflective of the organization’s actions.”

A few years later, Woodhouse again found himself under scrutiny after being recorded bragging about the potential to launder campaign money through the party’s treasurer.

“When we need to take illegal cash under the table and when we need—I see none of the politicians are laughing—when we need to take the big liberal Hollywood elites’ money, nobody can help us hide it better than David,” he said, referring to then-treasurer David Cozart. 

After pushback from the NC Democratic Party, Woodhouse told the News & Observer he was “obviously speaking in jest.