Under the Dome

Roy Cooper’s campaign spent more than $9,000 on UNC tickets in his first year as governor

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and UNC coach Roy Williams greet UNC-Wilmington coach C.B. McGrath prior to the North Carolina Disaster Relief Jamboree on Nov. 5, 2017 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and UNC coach Roy Williams greet UNC-Wilmington coach C.B. McGrath prior to the North Carolina Disaster Relief Jamboree on Nov. 5, 2017 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. rwillett@newsobserver.com

[Correction: A previous version of this story said Roy Cooper’s campaign spent $15,032 on UNC tickets. He spent $9,536.]

Usually money is green, but a lot of Roy Cooper’s campaign cash has turned to Carolina blue.

After the Democratic governor won election in 2016, his campaign continued spending big bucks throughout 2017 – including more than $9,000 on tickets to events at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Cooper, who went to UNC for both undergrad and law school, is not shy in his Tar Heel fandom. Legendary point guard Phil Ford even campaigned on his behalf in 2016.

So is he using his donors’ support to buy basketball season tickets?

No. His campaign strategist and spokesman, Morgan Jackson, said when Cooper is invited to games, the campaign pays for the cost of his seat to avoid concerns over ethics or transparency.

“Any time that he is offered tickets or given tickets to ball games, we always pay for them just to make sure we stay on the right side of campaign finance law,” Jackson said.

The Cooper For North Carolina campaign reported paying $9,536 to UNC to cover ticket prices in 2017.

It’s unclear if those were all for sports or also included concerts and other shows on campus. The money was sent in a handful of lump sums, ranging from $1,196 to $4,300 at a time.

“UNC each year offers the governor’s office ACC Tournament tickets along with 4 regular season tickets which are purchased by the campaign and used by the Governor, his staff and guests,” Jackson said. “This amount represents payment for 2 seasons.”

State law allows campaigns to spend money on anything “resulting from the campaign” or “resulting from holding public office.”

His campaign finance report for the first half of the year came out in July, and the report covering the second half of the year came out this week.

And here’s the answer to the biggest question for Tar Heels fans: Cooper’s campaign reports no payments to Duke – for tickets or anything else.

The only team other than UNC to receive money from the Cooper campaign was the Carolina Hurricanes, which received $150 from his campaign for tickets.

His campaign-affiliated Twitter page describes Cooper as “Father and Husband. North Carolina’s 75th Governor. Carolina Hurricanes Fan.”

Who else is the campaign paying?

The Cooper campaign’s spending on UNC tickets is only a drop in the bucket of more than $1.1 million it spent in 2017.

So what does a politician’s campaign spend money on after he wins the election?

Cooper’s campaign spent more than $220,000 on mailers, including paying for postage, for consulting and to buy lists showing where to send all that mail.

The campaign also paid just shy of $184,000 last year to Nexus Strategies, the political consulting firm founded by Jackson and Scott Falmlen, who serves as the treasurer for the Cooper campaign. The firm also made more than $2.2 million from the campaign in 2016, and $204,000 in 2015.

A few other payments from the campaign during 2017 include:

▪ $62,041 to the North Carolina Democratic Party, including $30,400 for catering, $9,294 for Cooper’s holiday cards, and $18,021 to buy a list of email addresses.

▪ $8,225 to the Junior League of Raleigh, which hosted Cooper’s inaugural ball.

▪ $3,000 to UNC to rent a venue on campus.

▪ $507.51 to buy subscriptions to the News & Observer.

▪ $1.07 to buy a glue stick.

▪ $12,882 at hotels in North Carolina as well as New York City, Miami, Washington, Greenville, S.C. and Providence, R.I.

▪ $25,042 to the N.C. Department of Transportation, as reimbursement for travel expenses in one of the two state-owned airplanes.

In 2017 the campaign continued fundraising, too, to the tune of $1.5 million. During the 2016 race for governor, Cooper’s campaign raised $24.7 million and spent $22.8 million.

Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran

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