By now you may have heard about the letter Civitas received from a law firm on behalf of the NC NAACP. As part of its lawsuit against North Carolina’s new voter ID law they sent us a notice letter that they may want to ransack our files and read our “diaries.”
We at Civitas have come to realize that when liberals accuse conservatives of doing something it is usually because they have actually done it themselves! In the case of elections we have a lot of evidence that liberals groups, including the NAACP, had behind the scenes input and influence that changed our laws. Some of their actions we believe were illegal and we have (with no results) asked the appropriate agencies to investigate.
Seeing as William Barber and the NAACP are so concerned about Civitas’ input on election reform, we thought it appropriate to rerun our series on the NC State Board of Elections (SBOE) and liberal lobbyist Bob Hall of Democracy NC. Liberal lobbyist Hall is someone who truly does have undue and hidden influence on elections in North Carolina. He has spent many years shaping our election legislation, policies and state bureaucracy into the nations most liberal and confusing collection of election laws and decisions.
After reading the series you too may ask the same questions we did. How did this happen? Why doesn’t someone do something? And now a third question, Did Barber and the NCNAACP have their lawyers send the same letter they sent to Civitas to Bob Hall and DemocracyNC?
From our 5,000+ emails, the evidence shows Hall is much more involved in election law than anyone else in the state. In fact, many of the emails show a direct link between William Barber/NCNAACP and Democracy NC using their connections to influence law and policy behind the scenes.
In Part 2 of our series, originally published December 14, 2012, we detail how Bob Hall and Gary Bartlett, the former director of the SBOE, conspired to use state employees and resources to launch a partisan attack on the Republican legislature.
In part 3 of our series, originally published on Feb 19, 2013, we show how the bureaucrats at the SBOE worked with representatives of the Obama campaign to allow on-line voter registration in violation of existing state law. This was facilitated in large part by the board attorney, Don Wright, who is still employed as the board attorney today.
In the final part of the series originally published on May 14, 2013 we explain how Liberal lobbyist Bob Hall helped guide NC election law to the left. This was with the cooperation of state officials even to the point of those officials raising money and praising their work.Guiding the NC Elections Board – to the Left
The North Carolina State Board of Election (SBE) is really two different organizations. To the public it is the appointed State Board of Elections consisting of political appointees of the governor representing the two major parties in North Carolina. More importantly, it is the bureaucratic staff that dominates both the election machinery and increasingly the way campaigns are conducted in North Carolina.
It is important to know that the North Carolina State Board of Elections is said to be one of the most authoritative boards of its kind in the country. It is an independent state agency and does not come under the jurisdiction of any other department headed by an elected official.
In 1986 the state elections staff consisted of five people and a moderate budget. In 2012 SBE staff is approaching 60 employees and pay and benefits exceed $3.5 million. While a poster child for how state government has grown over the last several decades, what is more worrisome is how the staff operates when making decisions that affect the very foundation of our democratic system of representative government.
Civitas has used the public records law to request information to piece together how decisions were made and actions taken by the staff of the SBE. What we found was a decision process that was heavily influenced, and in some cases directed, by one lobbyist for special interest groups. These actions even included the drafting of materials paid for by taxpayers and the planning of legislative lobbying and media campaigns. In addition, critical decisions that affected elections were kept out of public view and were not taken to the SBE for approval.
Getting the information was not easy. The SBE staff attempted to stonewall, delay and illegally charge Civitas for information that the law clearly says is public. Despite our persistence we believe that there are records that were not provided despite the law’s clear readings. But the records that were provided were enough to paint a disturbing picture of a supposedly professional staff that acted in anything but a professional way.
The first conclusive indication that there was trouble in the SBE staff was the response to a public records request made concerning communications involving lobbyist Bob Hall of the liberal advocacy group DemocracyNC.
The initial request was made of seven questions or requests for copies of emails. The request was made by email to Don Wright, the SBE’s General Counsel, on December 5, 2011. The first response from Mr. Wright was received on December 20, 2011. His response included an estimate of charges that would total approximately $4,800. The sticking point was the retrieval of emails. The estimate included a rate of $60 an hour for 60-80 hours of work. After some discussion, the request for emails was revised and we asked only for emails to and from Bob Hall or Democracy NC. During the month of January the SBE moved its offices and Mr. Wright underwent surgery, but on January 25 Mr. Wright forwarded the answers to all the initial questions except for the request of emails concerning Bob Hall. On March 13 we were informed that they had run the preliminary search and had retrieved 3,956 emails and it would cost approximately $1,500.
After an attempt to pare the request down and more back and forth about the estimated costs, we sought advice from a State House member. On June 5, Rep. David Lewis, Chairman of the House Elections Committee, forwarded an email with his opinion on our public records request to the SBE.
Rep. Lewis’ email resulted in the SBE withdrawing their demand for money, but still, we didn’t receive the emails until the second week of August 2012. At that time we received over 5,000 emails to and from Bob Hall or Democracy NC with attachments. There were duplicate emails but well over half of them were unique.
The attached emails show a SBE staff more interested in hiding and foot-dragging than in disclosure in accordance with the law.
In our second story in the series we will see why they felt compelled to try and resist disclosing these communications. It sets the stage for looking at a SBE staff interested in fighting a political fight rather than carrying out implementation of the law in a non-partisan, efficient manner.