After Republican Pat McCrory was elected Governor in 2012, North Carolina’s well-organized Left-wing nonprofit policy groups met to map out an attack strategy. The attack was aimed at the Republican leadership, including Gov. McCrory. The strategy was distributed in the form of a memo by another nonprofit, the progressive Left’s central organizing group, Blueprint NC.
In the months that followed the meeting, we saw the Left’s strategy materialize. Rallies, marches and sit-ins along with hit-piece after hit-piece from the mainstream media, especially in the Triangle. They worked together to achieve the goal to destroy the newly elected Governor and the majorities in the state legislature.
To refresh our memories, here are a few of the Blueprint strategy take-aways on attacking Republican leaders:
- “Crippling their leaders (McCrory, Tillis, Berger etc.).”
- “Eviscerate the leadership and weaken their ability to govern.”
- “Pressure McCrory at every public event.”
- “Slam him when he contradicts his promises.”
- “Private investigators and investigative reporting, especially in the executive branch…”
With Gov. McCrory effectively out of the way after his loss in 2016, it appears the Blueprint strategy’s newest target is Lt. Gov. Dan Forest – now the highest-ranking Republican in North Carolina. Travis Fain of WRAL (a major player in the Blueprint NC network) and Bob Hall, lobbyist and executive director of Democracy NC, one of Blueprint NC’s founding members teamed up last week in a hit-piece targeting Forest. The latest hit-piece follows the Blueprint directive for “Relentless earned media effort: operatives with relationships to statewide media…getting the message out…”
The gist of the WRAL story was that Forest must be doing something inappropriate for allowing a nonprofit organization to provide “enough television equipment to build an in-office studio.” According to Forest’s chief of staff, Hal Weatherman, the nonprofit North Carolina Promotions and Development Fund (NDPDF), has provided the Lt. Governor’s office about $61,000 worth of recording equipment. Weatherman indicated that the group was created in 2013 so as not to ask taxpayers for more money to fund the Lt. Governor’s office and the Lt. Governor, having a limited budget, used the equipment to communicate with the people of North Carolina.
Even at the outset of the WRAL article, Fain admitted that the attorneys he questioned agreed that state and federal law would allow such an arrangement. That fact wouldn’t stop Fain from using innuendo to cast aspersions on Forest. He described the nonprofit’s donation as “dark money,” because groups like NDPDF aren’t required to list contributors’ names.
There was also an underlying theme of jealousy evident in Fain’s story. He seemed to lament the fact that neither Gov. Roy Cooper nor the General Assembly leadership have their own television studios. He reported that “The Governor’s Office occasionally uses a camera and cameraman from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences…”
Could it be that Gov. Cooper uses the same equipment that WRAL “provided” to the Museum of Natural Sciences? In 2011 WRAL announced the museum had installed a 3D projector, and that the museum was converting its auditorium into what would now be called the “WRAL 3D Theatre.” With a little investigation, we see that Capitol Broadcasting, the parent company of WRAL, must have done far more than install a projector. According to a 2015-2016 financial statement from “Friends of the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences” (another nonprofit working within state government), the museum continues to pay back a note held by Capitol Broadcasting, for the theatre conversion, to the tune of “25 percent of the net revenue derived from the operation of the 3-D theater during the previous year.” For the years 2015 and 2016 that total came to $290,409.
The WRAL relationship to the museum and its nonprofit is curious, in that it appears that WRAL financed the conversion of an existing theatre at the museum, and is being paid back in installments. Note, during this period, the Governor overseeing the Department of Natural Resources was Democrat Beverly Perdue.
In 2013, at the height of the Blueprint NC strategy memo scandal, WRAL tried to hide its connection to the Leftist policy groups. Fain did the same thing with this story by not mentioning the fact that Capitol Broadcasting/WRAL had “provided” equipment to a state agency that Democrat Roy Cooper may use to record video segments.
When Fain pointed to “critics” questioning the social welfare purpose of a television studio, he meant just one critic; Bob Hall of Democracy NC. It’s beyond ironic that Bob Hall would criticize the Lt. Gov. for working with a nonprofit to save the taxpayers money. You see, Lobbyist Bob Hall and Democracy NC worked behind the scenes with a least one state agency (the North Carolina State Board of Elections – SBE) for more than a decade.
Civitas uncovered the relationship between Hall’s progressive advocacy group through official public records request in 2011-2012 and published a series of articles to expose the questionable association.
When we finally received more than 5,000 emails to and from Bob Hall and the SBE, we found a decision-making process that was heavily influenced, and in some cases directed by one lobbyist for left-wing special interest groups – Bob Hall. His actions even included the drafting of materials paid for by taxpayers.
We discovered that Hall was a behind-the-scenes driving force at the SBE – even to mapping out partisan attacks on Republican legislators to the extent that it is hard to tell where the SBE ends and Democracy NC begins. This is what happened:
In 2012 Hall, a registered lobbyist led an attack on Republican legislators over a budget issue. In planning the lobbying campaign, Hall coordinated with the SBE staff on tactics and information. Although the actual planning of the legislative campaign began in earnest in January 2012, the public campaign and coordination started in 2011, as seen in this AP article. The article was attached to an email from a vendor sent to the State Controller’s Office, from which it was enthusiastically forwarded to the SBE.
Another example of Hall’s excessive involvement at the SBE was apparent with his work on the state’s voter guide. For a time, the SBE published a voter guide that explained the purpose of the Public Campaign Fund (now defunct) along with an explanation of the functions of the appellate courts, the method and laws for the election of appellate judges, and information on all candidates for the North Carolina Court of Appeals and North Carolina Supreme Court and eventually the Council of State.
Through the public records we received, we determined that Hall had played the lead role in the editing, production and printing of the guides. He designed, produced and managed the printing and mailing of the voter guide from start to finish and arranged for the mailing that went to millions of voters.
After a few years of doing pro bono work on the SBE’s voter guide, Hall even suggested that the SBE contract this project out to a third party – perhaps even to his own organization. In an email exchange between Gary Bartlett and Don Wright (at the time the SBE’s Director and General Counsel), Wright wanted to know if Bartlett was serious about contracting it out to a third party “that may include Bob and associates.”
In 2013 Civitas called for a formal investigation into Hall and the SBE staff. The request was submitted to, but ignored by Attorney General Roy Cooper, Sec. of State Elaine Marshal and the SBE. It appears that now Bob Hall is possibly repaying Roy Cooper for the favor by attacking, with the help of WRAL, the leading candidate to oppose Roy Cooper in 2020.
When Civitas’ President Francis De Luca delivered the letters requesting an investigation to the government agencies, he said; “The evidence in these complaints make it clear that Mr. Hall used state resources to carry out an agenda and did so in a way to hide it from the public and from appointed and elected officials.”
It appears Bob Hall’s modus operandi has not changed. Hall, with the assistance of WRAL, are continuing to carry out the agenda to “eviscerate, mitigate, litigate, cogitate and agitate” Republicans in his call for a bogus investigation.
It really couldn’t be more obvious — straight out of the 2012 Blueprint NC strategy playbook. At the end of the day, Fain was just setting the stage for Hall to call for an investigation of the Lt. Governor. In a coordinated effort, two days after the initial story, Fain rewrote his story to announce that Hall has formerly asked for an investigation into the arrangement with the Lt. Governor by SBE – the same government agency he works with, hand in glove, to this day.
Featured image: Mike Mackenzie | Flickr