Morning Memo: Ahead of announcement, more trouble for Brannon campaign

Posted by John Frank on February 4, 2014 

Greg Brannon's campaign is trumpeting a big announcement planned for Tuesday evening but it first is facing questions about a civil lawsuit alleging the Republican U.S. Senate candidate misled investors.

The announcement is not much of a secret. Brannon allies let word slip days ago about FreedomWorks, a tea party group, endorsing the campaign. It is being seen as a slap against GOP frontrunner Thom Tillis, who is being ostracized by many tea partiers for his close association to the Washington establishment and Karl Rove.

But expect the announcement – planned for 5:30 p.m. at BBQ Lodge in Raleigh – to be overshadowed in part by the bold headlines in today's newspaper about the civil lawsuit against Brannon.

The court file is eight inches thick and filled with political dope, such as his botched investments and how he recruited investors apparently at his OB-GYN practice. (Find new details in the story below.)

It also is the latest controversy for the Brannon campaign after the candidate was forced to acknowledge a few months ago that his campaign website plagiarized from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's site.

How the episodes play in the minds of GOP donors and voters remains to be seen.

***Read more on the Brannon lawsuit below and even a North Carolina political news roundup in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: The Council of State meets at 9 a.m. and a controversial Jordan Lake project is on the agenda. The state must request an easement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in order to try an experiment aimed at improving the lake's water quality. But just how the project won approval was contentious and will give state leaders an opportunity to weigh in.

At the legislative office building: oversight committees on administrative procedures (10 a.m.), education (10 a.m.) and workforce development system (1 p.m.) meet. The joint energy policy committee also meets at 1 p.m.

Also, look for a news about a new Americans for Prosperity TV ad buy against Kay Hagan later today.

DEMOCRAT LEADS MONEY RACE FOR COBLE SEAT: Three of the candidates in the crowded field of hopefuls seeking to replace U.S. Rep. Howard Coble when he retires this year have raised six-figure campaign war chests.

Leading the pack in fourth-quarter fundraising is Democrat Laura Fjelds, who took in over $145,000, and now has nearly $160,000 on hand. She is a former high-ranking official with the state university system, and lives in Orange County.

On her heels is Republican Phil Berger Jr., the district attorney in Rockingham County, who reports taking in about $118,000 and having $114,000 on hand.

Next comes Republican Bruce Vanconnon, a retired Guilford County banker, who collected $106,000 and has $31,000 left over.

Trailing them are GOP candidates: Zach Matheny, a Greensboro City Councilman, who raised $40,000 and has a little less than that on hand (about $39,000); Rev. Mark Walker, a Greensboro minister, with nearly $38,000 collected and $9,000 on hand; Don Webb, a High Point financial adviser, with $32,000 in fourth-quarter contributions and $35 left over; and Don Collison, a Jamestown pastor, with almost $6,000 collected and $1,500 on hand.

Mike Causey, who entered the race late, has not filed a campaign finance report yet.

HPU POLL -- OBAMA, McCRORY, HAGAN NUMBERS NOT GOOD: A High Point University poll reinforced recent survey numbers showing President Barack Obama's approval in North Carolina besting Gov. Pat McCrory's numbers. But neither politician's numbers are good.

McCrory’s approval is 37 percent and his disapproval is 40 percent – suggesting North Carolina residents are deadlocked on what to think of the first term Republican. Nearly a quarter of those polled were unsure.

Obama’s approval is at 40 percent but his disapproval is 54 percent with 6 percent unsure, the poll found.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s numbers are worse. Her approval is 33 percent to 43 percent disapproval with 25 percent unsure. Those polled are split on Republican Sen. Richard Burr at 29 percent with 42 percent undecided.

HPU surveyed all North Carolina residents – not voters or likely voters – with live callers Jan. 26-30. The poll’s margin of error is plus-or-minus 4.8 percent. Find more numbers here.

THE BIG STORY -- CIVIL LAWSUIT ALLEGES BRANNON MISLED INVESTORS; HE DISPUTES CHARGES: One is a former medical school classmate and family friend. The other is the husband of his one-time pregnant patient.

The two men say that in 2010, Greg Brannon helped convince them to invest a combined $250,000 in a technology company he co-founded that promised to develop an “augmented reality” application for smartphones. The investment, company officials promised, was a once-in-a-decade opportunity.

Now, three years after the company abruptly shuttered its operations, Brannon is facing a civil legal complaint alleging he offered misleading advice.

Brannon, a Cary OB-GYN, defends his role as a board member at the Raleigh-based tech company, Neogence Enterprises, and is asking for the charges to be dismissed. In an interview last week, Brannon declined to discuss the case at length. “I can’t wait for my day in court,” he said.

The company’s founding and quick demise are outlined in hundreds of pages of Wake County court documents recently reviewed by The News & Observer and Charlotte Observer. Read more here.

FROM WASHINGTON: Congress is poised to send a massive, five-year farm bill that provides food for the needy and subsidies for the nation's farmers to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature.

The Senate was expected to pass the almost $100 billion-a-year compromise bill Tuesday; the House passed it last week. The bill provides a financial cushion for farmers who face unpredictable weather and market conditions, while also continuing to subsidize services for rural residents and communities who have hit hard times in recent years. The majority of the bill's cost is food stamps, which supplement meal costs for 1 in 7 Americans. Read more here. RELATED: 5 things to know about the farm bill. Read more here.

ADAMS, BRANDON LEAD FUNDRAISING RACE: Two Democrats from Guilford County have tapped into national fundraising networks to raise more money than their Charlotte rivals in the 12th Congressional District race.

New finance reports suggest that state Reps. Alma Adams of Greensboro and Marcus Brandon of High Point could challenge Mecklenburg County’s 22-year hold on the six-county district.

At least seven Democrats are running for the seat vacated last month when Democratic Rep. Mel Watt of Charlotte resigned to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency. It’s the first time the seat has come open since 1992. Read more here.

MOFFITT VIDEO PRESENTS STARK CHOICE: From the Citizen-Times -- Republican state Rep. Tim Moffitt has a new advertisement out that says North Carolinians have a choice in this election to continue with economic recovery or support policies of liberal critics.

State NAACP president Rev. William Barber, who has blasted the Republican Party for cuts to education, schools and restrictions on voting makes a cameo in the ad, which is narrated not by Moffitt but by a professional voice actor. ... “There is a possibility that it will be airing in a number of markets in the near future,” he said, including the local market. Read more here.

DOT FINED FOR WORK: Bulldoze first, ask permission later. That was the N.C. Department of Transportation’s approach in Cabarrus County, where the little matter of a bankruptcy filing threatened to slow the construction schedule for a big highway project.

A federal bankruptcy judge in Raleigh fined DOT for illegally condemning a half-acre of land in 2012 and demolishing a vacant building. And DOT’s lawyer made matters worse, the judge said, by giving “absolutely untrue” statements in an effort to win permission for the condemnation in court – a year after the fact. Read more here.

HUDSON SAYS HE LEADS DELGATION IN FUNDRAISING: Republican U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson recently announced he raised more than $193,000 in the fourth quarter. The report shows his total fundraising for 2013 at $754,000. His office says its the most in the entire North Carolina delegation.

ONE MORE FUNDRAISING NUGGET: Former Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt gave state Rep. Justin Burr, a Republican budget writer, a $1,000 contribution Oct. 12, campaign finance reports show.

PERSONNEL FILE: A belated introduction is in order for some new names to the Dome blog. Caitlin Owens, Katie Reilly and Megan Cassella recently joined the N&O capital desk for the spring semester. All three are accomplished young journalists studying at UNC-Chapel Hill. Look for their bylines in the months to come.


Rejected by state museum, documentary gets its airing elsewhere. Read more here.

Two can’t miss cartoons from Kevin Siers. Raleigh speak. And puppy love.

What the NC GOP wants you to read. Here.

John Hood at the John Locke Foundation disputes Democratic spin on jobs numbers. Read more here.

Rep. Jeff Collins to seek third term, but it’ll be his last. Read more here.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis contributed to this report.

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