NC GOP rivals for US House trade complaints

Associated PressJuly 9, 2014 

— A Republican candidate for an open congressional seat complained Wednesday his GOP rival is benefiting from independent spending tied to his father's position as one of the state's top political figures.

The complaint came from Mark Walker of Greensboro, who faces a runoff election Tuesday against Phil Berger Jr. The contest will decide who represents Republicans in November for the election to replace longtime U.S. Rep. Howard Coble in the heavily GOP 6th Congressional District. Berger's father is state Senate leader Phil Berger.

A Wake Forest-based super PAC called Keep Conservatives United has spent at least $95,000 on ads promoting the younger Berger or against Walker since the May 6 primary election. The group is a type of political action committee that can collect and spend unlimited amounts of money as long as it operates independently from a candidate or campaign.

Phil Berger Jr.'s congressional campaign and Keep Conservatives United have no links, said Berger spokesman Gillum Ferguson.

"We have no coordination with them or any super PAC. That's prohibited by law," Ferguson said.

Keep Conservatives United, the brainchild of a top operative of former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms' political organization, got $75,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee out of the $290,750 it reported receiving as of June 25. An RSLC affiliated group, the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, was chaired last year by Sen. Berger and he joined the RLCC's executive committee earlier this year. The RLCC describes its mission as helping Republicans win state legislative and local races around the country.

Another $110,000 in donations to the super PAC came from a handful of North Carolina business executives.

Walker said he is requesting state and federal investigations into whether Sen. Berger used his influence as one of North Carolina's most powerful politicians to steer contributions to the super PAC.

Spokesmen for Sen. Berger did not respond to Walker's claim that donors were giving to the PAC to curry favor with the political state heavyweight, referring questions to the senator's campaign.

Sen. Berger's campaign spokesman, Peter Barnes, called Walker's complaint an "unsubstantiated and baseless assault on Senator Berger's character and integrity."

"Today's attacks are just dramatic exaggerations of the truth which is what we've come to expect from Mark Walker," Phil Berger Jr. said in a statement.

Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio.

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