Dome: Aides say Perdue helped outside the spotlight

FROM STAFF REPORTSNovember 4, 2012 

A major question entering the gubernatorial campaign: How would outgoing Gov. Bev Perdue handle the election of her successor?

At first glance, it appeared that she ignored the governor’s race. She didn’t appear on the campaign trail for Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and kept $1.3 million in her campaign account instead of donating it to the state Democratic Party to help her would-be successor. On Monday, the day before the election, Perdue’s lone public event is a digital learning conference in Asheboro.

It was a tricky situation because Republicans were eager to tie Dalton to the unpopular incumbent governor – and did so repeatedly. Republican Pat McCrory linked the names – “the Perdue-Dalton agenda” – in his speeches and the state Republican Party called him “Bev Part 2.” It grew to a point where the Dalton campaign refused to answer any questions about Perdue.

But Perdue still had value: $2 million in campaign cash at the start of the year and a cadre of loyal supporters Dalton needed to win. So she helped behind the scenes, aides said.

Perdue helped bring former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell to North Carolina for a couple of fundraisers and spoke positively about Dalton at a Democratic Governors Association event earlier this year in Charlotte. She also gave the state party $250,000 to help Dalton and the Democratic ticket and wrote his campaign a $4,000 check.

Whether it amounted to the minimal effort or full-throated support is a matter of debate. After all, the governor’s decision at the last minute not to seek a second term putting Dalton at a disadvantage from the start – a move that essentially delivered the election to Republicans, political observers say.

Trickle-down McCrory effect

McCrory’s strong run in the governor’s race makes him a hot endorsement for state legislative candidates – but now his popularity is even being used to help elect a congressional candidate.

The Republican recorded a robo call recently for David Rouzer in his campaign against Democratic Congressman Mike McIntyre. The 7th District is one of the most expensive in the country and the race is being closely watched nationwide.

In the 40-second call, McCrory calls Rouzer his “good friend” and “a hard-working, problem-solving conservative.”

“While Mitt and I are working hard on real solutions to fix the problems facing our state and country, we need David Rouzer doing the same thing in Congress,” McCrory says.

He also takes a dig at McIntyre using a favorite Republican attack line saying Rouzer “won’t be voting with Nancy Pelosi.” His partisan jab would seem to discredit his repeated talk about bipartisanship and working across the aisle if elected governor.

State schools superintendent candidate John Tedesco has also sent out material featuring a photo of him and McCrory side by side.

Perdue refund, donation probed

Months after deciding not to seek another term, Perdue refunded $243,000 in campaign contributions.

About $100,000 soon found its way to Dalton’s campaign, disclosure reports show. About 15 of the 50 donors received the contribution and wrote a check to Dalton within a couple weeks.

Now the timing is the subject of a campaign finance complaint filed by the N.C. Republican Party that alleges the transfers amount to an excess contribution from the Perdue campaign to Dalton. The party’s filing last week came days after Dalton’s camp sent a complaint to the state Board of Elections about McCrory’s accounting of campaign flights.

Marc Farinella, a spokesman for Perdue’s committee, rejected the GOP charge. “Oh please,” Farinella said. “These guys like to make up conspiracies.”

“The committee gave refunds to every donor who requested it by Oct. 20, the close of the last reporting period,” he continued. “We never urged anyone to ask for a refund. And we never suggested to anyone what they should do with their refund. If people wanted to use it to support another candidate, it’s up to them.”

A Dalton spokesman suggested it was retribution for the McCrory complaint, calling it “an extremely weak attempt at distracting from the legitimate charge they accepted an illegal corporate contribution.”

“All one needs to do,” added spokesman Schorr Johnson, “is look at Perdue campaign accounts and know there was obviously no effort whatsoever to funnel her money to the Dalton campaign.”

As with the McCrory complaint, the State Board of Elections won’t consider this matter until after the election.

What of McCrory ethics plan?

Two months ago, McCrory’s campaign pledged to release an ethics plan for the Republican’s potential administration. But now it’s obvious it won’t happen.

Democrat Walter Dalton released a three-page, detailed plan Aug. 29 that promised a more open and accountable government. A McCrory spokesman said the Republican would release a plan in early September.

By October, a liberal group critical of McCrory called the bluff. “When it comes to ethics, McCrory is all talk and no substance,” said Gerrick Brenner, the executive director of Progress North Carolina Action.

At the time, a McCrory campaign spokesman suggested a plan was in the works. But now the campaign acknowledges it won’t do so. Staff writer John Frank

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