Governor Roy Cooper was accused of accepting illegal donations by the North Carolina Republican Party on Aug. 9, which allegedly happened at an event held with the North Carolina Advocates for Justice (NCAJ) at Sunset Beach in June.
The event, a trial lawyer’s convention which included a reception that honored Cooper, was held on June 18. Various hosts donated to Cooper’s campaign and raised $50,000 which the North Carolina GOP is claiming to be unlawful.
“Our opponents, the Democrats, have a lengthy history…of not being transparent or following the rule, and letter of the law,” said Robin Hayes, the North Carolina Republican Party Chairman, at a press conference. “Apparently Gov. Cooper and the Democrats do not go by the same rules we do.”
Campaign finance laws in North Carolina state that politicians are not allowed to solicit donations for campaigns from lobbyists or certain political action committees (PAC) while state legislature is still in session. In 2017, the session did not end until June 30, twelve days after the event took place.
“You cannot do it,” said Hayes at the press conference. “You can’t raise money while the legislature is in session.”
On the other side of the aisle, Cooper and his team claim they did not violate any law during the event. Representatives of the NCAJ said that Cooper’s campaign organized and paid for the fundraiser and that is was not a PAC event.
“This is a baseless complaint that just happens to come out on a day that public polling numbers were released showing that Governor Cooper has strong statewide approval ratings,” said Morgan Jackson, the campaign spokesman for Cooper in a statement. Cooper’s approval ratings are currently around 53 percent, according to the Morning Consult.
Despite the accusations being called “baseless,” the North Carolina GOP, led by Hayes, is now calling for a formal state investigation into Cooper’s actions at the conference. Many of the donors at the event were on NCAJ’s board which led to suspicions of the PAC itself soliciting the donations.
“When you don’t follow the law, it’s a major concern,” said Hayes.
Hayes called for the investigation to be done by the North Carolina Bipartisan Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement which currently has no members; Cooper has yet to appoint any members and is a part of a lawsuit against the parent law of the board, as it is believed that it violates the separation of powers.
“Might we think that the governor is dragging his feet on that board of elections so there is no official body to look at these kinds of infractions, and breaking of the rules?,” said Hayes.
The most recent campaign finance law investigation of this nature occurred in 2010. Mike Easley, governor from January 2000 to January 2009, became the first North Carolina governor to plead to a felony. He paid a $1000 penalty in response to failure to report use of campaign funds. Cooper could see a similar fate, though punishments to violations vary depending on the case.
“Most violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) result in civil penalties–fines arrived at through a conciliation process,” stated the Federal Election Commission’s website. “Knowing and willful violations of certain FECA provisions can lead to imprisonment.”