Under the Dome

Dome: Who gives money to Blueprint North Carolina?

February 23, 2013 

The scandal du jour that lasted into the weekend was the mystery behind who leaked a strategy memo ostensibly distributed via email by Blueprint North Carolina, a nonprofit partnership of liberal advocacy groups. It included advice on how to bring down GOP leaders, using inflammatory language.

As soon as Blueprint’s major funder publicly disapproved of the memo, Blueprint’s executive director, Sean Kosofsky, said it didn’t come from his group. He suggested dirty tricks were to blame, although he didn’t exactly say Blueprint disagreed with the strategy.

As a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization, Blueprint is prohibited from getting involved in political campaigns. But that doesn’t prevent it from getting involved in politics.

Designated as a 501(c) (3) by the IRS, it can’t legally work for candidates. But, in filings with the IRS, it clearly identifies its mission as “Alliance and advocacy for civil rights and social action in North Carolina.”

The group’s major funder – the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation – is upset at the organization’s strategy memo, as The Charlotte Observer reported Friday. The foundation gave Blueprint $425,000 in 2011, according to its most recent IRS filing.

Who else contributes to Blueprint?

The filings show: Mott Philanthropic of Boston, $175,000; Open Society Institute of New York, $150,000; Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation of Winston-Salem, $105,000; A.J. Fletcher Foundation, $35,000; Warner Foundation of Chapel Hill, $75,000; TCF/Warner & Craven of Durham, $25,000; Bydale Foundation, $7,500; Taku Fund, $10,000.

Donors to nonprofit organizations are not part of the public file that goes to the IRS. But Blueprint included the information in its filing with the state as a charitable organization.

Tillis mines memo for money

It didn’t take long for House Speaker Thom Tillis to use the strategy memo as a way to raise money. The Republican leader sent a fundraising solicitation Friday, less than a day after the story broke.

“We are only three weeks into the legislative session and ultra-liberal organizations, in partnership with the Democratic Party and Democratic legislative leaders have vowed to ‘cripple’ me,” he writes. “The confidential strategy document sayes (sic) the key to their success is to ‘Eviscerate the [Republican] leadership and weaken their ability to govern.’ ”

Tillis’ suggestion that the state Democratic Party is involved is not yet proven, but Democratic House leader Larry Hall did use language from the memo in a recent speech.

The fundraising letter continues: “I believe this kind of failed leadership is why Democrats lost their chance to govern and why North Carolina is now led by Republicans. We are not here to tear down the other side. We are here to solve problems. ... We are off to a great start, but we need your help to fight the cut-throat tactics our opponents clearly intend to use to weaken our ability to govern. Can I count on your financial support to meet the stiff challenges of those who want us to fail?”

Worth noting: Tillis is raising money for his personal political coffers, not the House GOP leadership’s account.

McCrory joins drilling push

Gov. Pat McCrory continues to emphasize his desire to drill for oil and gas off the North Carolina coast. Earlier this month, he joined the governors of Virginia and South Carolina in petitioning the Obama administration to partner on offshore energy exploration. On Friday, his office announced he joined the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, a group that advocates for drilling.

“Pursuing responsible exploration and development of our offshore resources will help us reach our shared goal of greater energy independence and will create thousands of jobs," McCrory said in a statement released by his office.

The coalition was formed in 2011. It is led by Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, who welcomed McCrory to the group, which includes Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina.

“As Congress and the Obama administration focus on energy policy, Gov. McCrory’s knowledge of and perspective on offshore energy exploration and production in the Atlantic adds an important voice to the discussion,” Parnell said in the statement.

Governor goes to Washington

By the way, in case you were hoping to have breakfast with the governor or something, McCrory has been out of town all weekend.

He is visiting Washington Friday through Monday for a series of meetings with the National Governors Association and Republican Governors Association. On Sunday, along with all governors, he will dine at the White House with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, followed by a meeting at the White House the next morning with the president.

Staff writers Craig Jarvis and John Frank

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