When WRAL reported on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to throw out North Carolina’s congressional maps barely a month ahead of the 2016 Primary, the station’s ‘journalists’ turned to their friends in three different organizations belonging to Blueprint NC (the ‘eviscerate’ group) for ‘expert’ analysis.
Specifically, WRAL included quotes from three Blueprint NC groups’ leaders and also a founding member of another Blueprint NC group, who just happens to be the father of one of the candidates running for attorney general on the Democratic ticket.
The congressional maps in question were drawn after the 2000 census, approved by the U.S. Justice Department, approved by the North Carolina Supreme Court (twice), and used in the 2012 and 2014 elections.
Not surprisingly, WRAL gave Democracy NCss executive director and liberal lobbyist Bob Hall first shot to spew his hyper-political, exaggerated, and bordering-on-extreme rhetoric. WRAL identified Hall as executive director of ‘good-government watchdog group Democracy North Carolina.’ The mainstream media usually describes Hall and his group either as watchdogs or non-partisans, but the descriptions are ludicrous, knowing Hall’s history as a powerful elections lobbyist with extraordinarily close ties to North Carolina’s progressive elite and the Democrats in the legislature, and especially with his more than 20 years working with, and at times directing, the State Board of Elections(SBOE).
This is the same Bob Hall that Civitas wrote about extensively in 2012 and 2013 in a four-part series (see below for links to these articles). We continue to believe that 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 and policies into the nation’s most liberal and confusing collection of election laws and decisions. Hall was instrumental in the creation and implementation of same-day registration, early voting and its expansion, out-of-precinct voting, a law that allowed 16-year-olds to register to vote and public financing of campaigns, to name a few. We believe Hall’s influence at the State Board of Elections continues, even after Republican Gov. Pat McCrory appointed a new five-member board and that board hired a new director in 2013.
In 2012 Civitas used the public records law to request information to piece together how decisions were made and actions taken by the staff of the State Board of Elections. What we found, through more than 5,000 emails between Hall and the SBOE staff, was a decision process that was heavily influenced, and in some cases directed, by one lobbyist for special-interest groups – Bob Hall. These actions even included the drafting of taxpayer-funded materials and the planning of legislative lobbying and media campaigns. We also discovered that Hall controlled and directed the North Carolina Public Campaign Fund Program (NCPCF), the vehicle for public campaign financing in the Tar Heel State.
The WRAL description of Hall as a watchdog is more a blatant cover-up than a misnomer since our investigation revealed how lobbyist Hall was a behind-the-scenes driving force at the SBOE – even to mapping out partisan attacks on Republican legislators to the extent that it is hard to tell where the SBOE ends and Democracy NC begins.
In 2012 Hall led an attack on Republican legislators over a budget issue. In planning the lobbying campaign, Hall coordinated with elections board 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.
Hall laid out his game plan in 2012 for trying to get the legislature to spend the extra $660,000 to expand early voting even more, and the political strategy for attacking Republicans in the media in a memo attached to an email sent to then-SBOE Director Gary Bartlett. The very same day, SBOE Deputy Director Johnnie McLean responded via email directly to Hall saying: “We have reviewed your document and identified a few changes you may want to make.”
In his game plan memo Hall included a bullet point that read:
“We win even if we lose: Even if we don’t get the money this fight hits GOP where they are most vulnerable to public anger over appearing to suppress voting; it will help with the ID fight.”
In light of our discoveries, in 2013 Civitas submitted an official complaint and called for an investigation into Bob Hall and the SBOE staff. Recall that Hall is a registered lobbyist and head of a far-left activist organization. Yet our evidence showed that the SBOE staff in 2012 collaborated with him to use state resources, personnel and equipment to engage in partisan political activity in possible violation of general statutes prohibiting state employees from participating in partisan political activity on state time and using state resources. (Supporting documents here).
We also submitted evidence that SBOE staff allowed Hall to produce and edit state documents in the form of the “non-partisan” voter guide that is mailed to every registered voting household in North Carolina. His level of participation in this activity exceeded that of the state employees actually tasked with producing the document and included suggesting edits to candidate statements and facilitating billing and payments from state government for vendors. (Supporting documents here).
As to the complaint and call for an investigation, Civitas never received a response from the Board of Elections.
It’s worth noting that WRAL has at the very least one explicit connection to Bob Hall’s work with the SBOE. In this May 2013 Civitas article, Guiding the NC Elections Board – to the Left, we discovered that Damon Circosta was in discussions with Gary Bartlett and Bob Hall about taking over the SBOE contract to print the voter guides. Circosta, who was at the time director of NC Voters for Clean Elections (also linked to Blueprint NC), is now executive director and vice president of A.J. Fletcher Foundation, which is funded and controlled by the Goodmon family, which owns WRAL-TV.
This email from Hall, Bob Phillips (see below) and Circosta even mentions getting Capital Broadcasting (WRAL) to air PSAs for a special edition of the voter guide. The idea for a special voter guide comes directly from Hall, Phillips and Circosta.
Other liberal activists quoted in the WRAL article were:
William Barber, president of the NC NAACP (Blueprint NC member), the bloviating mouthpiece and figurehead of the progressive protest movement in North Carolina. He is hardly a dispassionate observer: The NC NAACP is plaintiff in the redistricting case, and the ongoing cases against voter ID and VIVA, the election reform legislation passed in 2013.
Bob Phillips, director of Common Cause (Blueprint NC member), a helper to Bob Hall in the liberal proliferation of election law and processes, according to the emails received through our public information request.
Adam Stein, founding board member of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, another Blueprint NC group. More than 98 percent of the group’s grant money comes from two extreme liberal political funders – the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and the Tides Foundation based in San Francisco. Stein actually likened the maps to apartheid – a reminder that using slanderous and bombastic rhetoric is a typical “demonize and destroy” tactic of the radical Left.
Josh Stein, (D-Wake), state senator, current candidate for attorney general, son of Adam Stein (above). WRAL gave Sen. Stein a chance to get his two cents into this article. He said that “a similar federal lawsuit is challenging the legislative maps drawn in 2011, and he hopes they are likewise found to be unconstitutional.” I shudder to think what will happen to the NC Department of Justice if Josh Stein is elected to head it as attorney general and NC voters find out too late that he throws around baseless and incendiary slurs the way his father has.
Bob Hall’s declaration in the 2012 memo that “we win even if we lose” is emblematic of the progressive Left’s strategic plan. The current redistricting debacle happening in a presidential election year is a great example of that plan. Maybe Hall’s game plan is best described by Chicago Mayor and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel when he said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”
So that’s who WRAL turns to for “news” – not objective experts, but major players in the progressive movement. Hall is a high-ranking foot soldier for North Carolina’s elite progressive/socialist club – the club organized and directed by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. He along with William Barber and the others mentioned here are used by the elite as attack dogs, not “watch dogs.” WRAL as well as other establishment news organization (the media elite) have a deep reservoir of liberal leaders who they can draw from to provide continuous “talking points” that will push the liberal agenda.
*Blueprint NC; the group that gained notoriety because of strategy memo distributed at one of its 2013 meetings that was subsequently leaked to the press. The memo described the game plan “progressive” groups, namely Blueprint NC member groups, should use to attack North Carolina’s Republican leaders. Blueprint NC was formed by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in 2006 to help “progressive” advocacy groups coordinate activities and messaging. Blueprint NC’s strategy memo recommendations:
- “Crippling their leaders ([Gov.] McCrory, [House Speaker] Tillis, [Senate President Pro Tem] Berger etc.).”
- “Eviscerate the leadership and weaken their ability to govern.”
- “Pressure McCrory at every public event.”
- “Private investigators and investigative reporting, especially in the executive
- “Organizers focus on year round voter registration….”