State Politics

FEC dismisses 2014 Carolina Rising complaint

The Federal Election Commission will not investigate the state Democratic Party’s 2014 complaint against Carolina Rising, an organization designated as a social welfare group but which Democrats said was electioneering and should have identified its donors.

The FEC dismissed the complaint on a 3-3 vote on Oct. 18, with Republican members voting not to pursue the case. Two Democratic FEC members wrote Friday that the commission had missed its chance to check groups that exploit the tax code and “trample on federal campaign law.”

Dallas Woodhouse, who ran Carolina Rising in 2014, could not be reached for comment Friday night. He is now the N.C. Republican Party’s executive director.

Carolina Rising indicated on its 2014 tax form that its mission was to promote limited government, low taxation and a thriving economy.

After the 2014 election, the Center for Public Integrity found that Carolina Rising ran nearly 4,000 ads praising Republican Thom Tillis in the U.S. Senate race. Tillis defeated Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Center for Responsive Politics published documents showing that Carolina Rising had used 97 percent of its revenue to pay for those ads, and that most of the money, $4.82 million, came from a single donor.

While celebrating Tillis’s victory on election night 2014, Woodhouse exclaimed, “we did it” in a television interview, telling the reporter the group spent $4.7 million to elect Tillis.

Democratic FEC commissioners Ann M. Ravel and Ellen L. Weintraub wrote that the FEC’s Republicans are allowing groups devoted to a single candidate to flout the law.

“We had the opportunity to put all single-candidate nonprofits on notice that similar actions are unlawful,” they wrote. “Instead, the Republican commissioners have denied North Carolina voters their right to know the source of millions of dollars that poured into their U.S. Senate election.”

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner