Political committees are required to disclose their spending, but in the final hectic days leading up to an election, it’s easy to lose track of all the last-minute money.
And some disclosures don’t even show up until after everyone has voted.
Filings from just before and just after Election Day provide a glimpse of the issues that are important to people and who is backing them financially.
Here are some things you probably didn’t know before you voted.
George Soros opposed the amendments
Liberal billionaire philanthropist George Soros’ lobbying organization contributed $500,000 to groups opposing the proposed constitutional amendments. His group, Open Society Policy Center, split the contribution between two committees formed to defeat the measures: $200,000 to Stop the Deceptive Amendments and $300,000 to By the People.
Together, those two North Carolina groups collected $8.5 million to oppose the amendments. Four amendments passed: a tax cap, hunting and fishing rights, protections for crime victims, and requiring voters to show photo identification. Two amendments failed that would have shifted power to the legislature.
Soros has been a lightning rod of controversy from the right. His group reported spending $16.1 million on lobbying in Washington last year, according to Roll Call.
Teachers’ union chipped in against them, too
Financing for Stop the Deceptive Amendments included $300,000 from the Washington-based New Venture Fund; $500,000 from the National Education Association teachers’ union; $250,000 from Make N.C. First; $775,000 from N.C. Citizens for Protecting our Schools; $1.6 million from the State Engagement Fund, a Washington nonprofit group funded by the NEA; and $3.5 million from The Sixteen Thirty Fund, a Washington-based organization involved in social and environmental issues.
The campaign against the proposal to lower the cap on state income tax from 10 to 7 percent was led by school and local government officials. Educators were concerned that lowering taxes could deprive schools of sufficient funding to fix buildings that have fallen into disrepair.
By the People, which was formed to oppose the amendments, was joined by a coalition of groups including the state chapters of the NAACP and the ACLU. Its list of financial and in-kind backers includes a who’s-who of North Carolina progressive-leaning advocates: Blueprint N.C., which is a coalition of dozens of nonprofit organizations, gave $285,000; the N.C. Conservation Network, $50,000; N.C. Voters for Clean Elections, $50,000; American Civil Liberties Union, $50,000; Center for Community Self Help, $50,000; Progress N.C.: $50,000; Common Cause, $50,.000, and the Washington-based America Votes, $200,000.
“It was an ambitious fundraising effort among interested organizations,” Melissa Price Kromm, director of N.C. Voters for Clean Elections, said in an email Friday. “Frankly, we surpassed what we thought we could raise.”
Wake County donor funded Supreme Court candidate
The campaign that helped sink N.C. Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jackson’s re-election bid was largely funded by a key Democratic Party donor.
Democrat-turned-Republican candidate Chris Anglin’s campaign finance report shows his biggest donors were Dean Debnam and his wife Sesha, both of whom donated the maximum $5,200 contribution. Debnam owns Workplace Options and Public Policy Polling and is a major player in Democratic Party politics, particularly in Wake County. The Debnams also gave the maximum contribution to Anglin’s Democratic opponent, Anita Earls, in April.
Anglin finished with 16.4 percent of the vote — splitting the votes that went to Republicans in other statewide races — despite being opposed by the N.C. Republican Party, and despite not spending much on traditional campaign tools. Of the $16,598 he spent by Oct. 20, none went to advertising or mailers.
Anglin paid Democratic consultant Perry Woods $9,250, and he spent $4,500 on legal fees with the law firm of John Burns, a Democrat who serves as a Wake County commissioner. Burns represented Anglin in his successful lawsuit challenging a state law that would have stripped the “Republican” label from his name on the ballot.
Anglin’s campaign finance report wasn’t posted online until this week, although postal records show it was mailed by the Oct. 29 deadline. State law requires campaigns that raise more than $5,000 to file reports electronically, which gives voters time to learn who’s funding a campaign before Election Day.
Pro-business money helped incumbents hold on
The N.C. Chamber’s independent expenditure committee spent more than $400,000 on Facebook ads and mailers supporting 14 Republican state legislators, eight of whom won. About half of that money was supplemented with last-minute contributions to the committee from Duke Energy, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Reynolds tobacco.
Republicans benefited from other independent committees:
▪ The N.C. Property Rights Fund spent about $200,000 on behalf of more than a dozen mostly GOP lawmakers in the final weeks. The Greensboro-based nonprofit organization is an independent expenditure committee connected to the N.C. Association of Realtors.
▪ Mainstreet Merchants for a Better North Carolina spent about $100,000 on Republican House and Senate incumbents, with help from $240,000 tied to the N.C. Retail Merchants Association.
It’s not all about big donations
A national group called The People PAC put together online videos for 20 Democratic legislative candidates in North Carolina, spending less than $20,000 for what are considered in-kind contributions. The political action committee says five of its candidates won.
The People PAC issued a news release on Friday saying it helped Democrats win 33 statehouse seats across the country.
The group is similar to the One Vote at a Time PAC that gave professional-quality videos to two dozen Democrats and was almost entirely funded by Hollywood donors. The People PAC is funded by filmmakers and grassroots activists, and according to its news release uses reality TV, pop culture and social media as campaign tools.
The organization’s donors are heavily from New York and California, with many smaller contributors using the Act Blue fundraising software for those on the left.