An organization aiming to help Democrats gain influence in North Carolina government faces allegations that it has violated campaign laws.
A complaint filed with the state Board of Elections on Tuesday alleges that Indivisible - Flip NC has been raising money and improperly coordinating efforts with the state Democratic Party without filing paperwork with the elections board and disclosing its donors. The complaint was filed by Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party.
A slew of groups supporting Democrats, many using the Indivisible name, have sprung up since the 2016 presidential election.
Flip NC’s website says its goal is to end the Republican supermajority in the General Assembly, where Republicans have so many members that they can override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper if he vetoes their legislation. If Democrats pick up either four House seats or six Senate seats in the November election, they’ll break the supermajority. Flip NC has published analysis of North Carolina’s election precincts and the most “flippable” districts in the House and Senate.
Republicans in suburban areas tend to be the most vulnerable. And Flip NC appears to specifically target at least one suburban Republican: Rep. Nelson Dollar of Cary.
“If we are going to have rules they have to apply equally to all,” Woodhouse said in an email.
Woodhouse wrote in his complaint that he couldn’t find any evidence the group had filed paperwork with federal or state agencies.
“According to their published toolkit, they were handing out information that identified candidates and included a disclaimer alluding to the organization status [as] an official independent expenditure organization,” Woodhouse wrote, linking to a “toolkit” published on the Flip NC website.
The state elections board, through spokesman Pat Gannon, confirmed Tuesday that the board has not received any reports from Flip NC. “Our campaign finance staff will review the complaint,” Gannon said.
State law says any group that aims to help candidates directly or indirectly must register with the Board of Elections and disclose its donors. The complaint says Flip NC has failed to do so, despite photos on its Facebook page that appear to show Flip NC volunteers knocking on doors last June.
A newsletter distributed by email on Monday offered “a big thank you to the 35 of you who canvassed with us last Sunday in NC House District 36 in Wake County.”
Flip NC was co-founded by Amy Cox and Briana Brough, according to its website. The organization didn’t immediately respond to a News & Observer email requesting comment.
Robert Howard, a spokesman for the North Carolina Democratic Party, said the party isn’t affiliated with Flip NC.
“While we appreciate all that Flip NC and other volunteer, grassroots organizations are doing to organize and build momentum, we have no ongoing agreement with them,” Howard said.
“Republicans clearly are terrified of the huge and growing Democratic grassroots energy and frustrated by several high-profile court losses and are lashing out the only way they know how – by trying to suppress voters and attacking people who are tired of sleazy, underhanded politics like this,” Howard said.
The complaint notes that Flip NC lists its address as 112 S. Duke St. in Durham, the location of the Parker and Otis restaurant.
“Flip NC’s launch party was hosted by Motorco, a music hall in Durham,” the Republican complaint says. “There is no report whether the event was an in-kind contribution.”
The complaint also includes photos from the Flip NC Facebook page that show Democratic politicians and candidates, including:
▪ Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the state Democratic Party,
▪ Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria, who’s running for state House against Dollar, and
▪ Anita Earls, who’s running for a seat on the state Supreme Court.
The complaint asks whether Calabria, Earls and Goodwin paid to attend the event.
Howard said Goodwin attended a free, public event and did nothing wrong.
“This group appears to be working for Supreme Court Justice Candidate Anita Earls, Governor Cooper and legislative democrats without following any of the disclosure rules,” Woodhouse said in an email. “We do not believe that is lawful or ethical on the part of this democrat supporting group.”
The complaint also asks for information on who is paying for merchandise the organization is selling.
“Given Flip NC has not filed any reports, there is no way to know who is paying for the events, collaterals or software,” the complaint concludes.