Under the Dome

Liberal group files complaint over McCrory ads

The liberal advocacy group Progress N.C. Action filed a complaint with the state Board of Elections on Wednesday asking it to determine if Gov. Pat McCrory has improperly blurred the lines between his re-election campaign committee and the committee organized to promote the statewide bond referendum that he supports.

Representatives of both committees dispute the allegation, and his campaign spokesman said the complaint was politically motivated.

The complaint is about a video released last week of McCrory talking about the benefits of the $2 billion bond issue, which was distributed by the bond committee by email. It contends that production values in the video are similar to a recent McCrory campaign video, noting both use footage apparently filmed with a drone in “dramatic swooping manner.”

In December, in response to an inquiry from Progress N.C. Action’s attorney, Michael Weisel, the state elections director said that the bond committee can use candidates’ photos, statements or videos so long as they don’t coordinate with the campaigns. They can use material already in the public sphere. The complaint contends that there was illegal coordination.

Bob Orr, chairman of the Connect N.C. bond committee and a former state Supreme Court justice, says the committee has complied with the law. He said in a statement the video was from an interview with McCrory during the Jan. 5 kickoff of the bond drive. He noted that state Sen. Dan Blue, a Raleigh Democrat, and also appeared in a video from that event. Both videos were emailed separately to supporters. The McCrory video also appears as a paid advertisement on The News & Observer’s website.

The complaint says the Blue video and a video of former Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton from the same event differ from the McCrory video, which is markedly more staged. Democrats raised concerns about McCrory appearing in bonds ads last October, saying he should not appear in commercials that would help him get re-elected. His opponent, Attorney General Roy Cooper, supports the bonds but said he didn’t think it appropriate to appear in TV ads for it.

McCrory campaign spokesman Ricky Diaz contends Progress N.C. Action amounts to a super PAC working for Cooper. It is not registered as an independent expenditure committee, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money for candidates. It has filed previous complaints against McCrory.

"Instead of helping to pass the bipartisan Connect NC bond that invests in education, National Guard readiness and infrastructure without raising taxes, it's pretty obvious that Roy Cooper, the Democrat Party and their super PAC Progress NC are trying to undermine it,” Diaz said in a statement. “They have been coordinating for months and laying the groundwork to try and thwart the bond with a bogus complaint just like this, which will only waste taxpayer money and get thrown out like their other frivolous complaints.”

Cooper’s campaign spokesman Jamal Little issued this response: "Attorney General Roy Cooper has been crystal clear since day one that he supports the bond referendum. Any suggestion otherwise is a flat out lie."

The complaint says the Connect N.C. committee has purchased up to $3 million of TV advertising time to run from Wednesday through the March 15 election.