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The "influencers"

Campaigns & Elections, a trade magazine for politicos, named the top "political influencers" in its latest edition. Ten from each state made it to the list.

Five Republicans and five Democrats, a mix of North Carolina lobbyists and campaign consultants, got the nod.

The five Republicans: John Davis of John Davis Consulting; Tom Fetzer, lobbyist and former Raleigh mayor and state GOP chairman; lobbyist Dana Simpson; political consultant Carter Wrenn; and political consultant Chris Sinclair. Davis is actually unaffiliated.

The five Democrats: Political consultant Brad Crone; consultant Mike Davis; strategist Scott Falmlen, a former state Democratic Party executive director; lobbyist Bruce Thompson; and Andrew Whalen, consultant for the Blue Dog Coalition and a former state Democratic Party executive director.

Democratic leaders ask for cash to challenge GOPs redistricting maps

N.C. Democratic legislative leaders are asking for money to help challenge the GOP-drawn redistricting maps in court.

The solicitation sent Thursday from former House Speaker Joe Hackney and Senate Democratic leader Martin Nesbitt is titled "Can you help us stop the GOP's gerrymandering?"

The effort is being coordinated through a secretive political nonprofit called The Democracy Project. As a 501(c)4 group under tax law, it can raise and spend unlimited money without disclosing its donors. Democratic strategist Scott Falmlen, a former executive director at the state party, is the director of the group, state records show.

"We need your help now to have the resources to be heard in court," the email proclaims. "Carrying this fight to the courts is an expensive proposition, but critical for the future of our state."

The message goes further to lay out the Democrats claims about the new political boundaries drawn by the Republican-dominated state legislature, noting the split precincts and consolidation of black voters in certain districts. 

Plan not public

When State Board of Elections Chairman Larry Leake introduced a document outlining Democrats elections plans, he said the document might never be made public.

The document outlines a plan by the N.C. Democratic Party to coordinate get-out-the-vote and other efforts to push a full slate of Democrats.

The News & Observer has requested access to the document, which has been submitted to the board and, the newspaper argues, should be a public record. 

Board member Bob Cordle, in his questions to former party official Scott Falmlen, noted that Republicans would want to see the document as much as newspapers. Cordle told Falmlen that the Democratic Party would have to make a show of what information needed to be kept secret.

"You're going to have to show us what's proprietary and what's considered to be proprietary," Cordle said.

An 'ic' tic

There's was a noticeable verbal play at work when State Board of Elections member Bill Peaslee began his questioning of former N.C. Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Falmlen.

Peaslee, at right, is a former high ranking official within the N.C. Republican Party. And Peaslee repeatedly referred to Falmlen's party as the "Democrat Party," as in:

"Did the Democrat Party at any point arrange for travel for Gov. [Mike] Easley?" Peaslee asked.

"Not that I'm aware of. No sir," Falmlen answered.

Dropping the "ic" from "Democrat," of course is often meant as a little tweak. It serves as a reminder that the Board of Elections is a partisan body with three Democrats and two Republicans.

And to be fair, Bob Cordle, a Democrat pictured at right, has earned some attention this week for the tone of his questions. Columnist and Dome's distinguished colleague Rob Christensen noted that Cordle's questions have coddled witnesses all week.

Board Chairman Larry Leake, whom some Republicans had criticized for holding a fundraiser in 2000 for Easley, continued his persistent and professional questioning. The same could not be said for Bob Cordle, whose unfettered flattery of all Democratic witnesses, including Easley, is cringe-inducing.

Falmlen: No account for Easley

The former executive director of the N.C. Democratic Party said the party did not have a separate account for funneling money to former Gov. Mike Easley.

Scott Falmlen said he was in the best position to know what went on with campaign finance between the party and Easley's campaign.

Two big donors have earlier testified to the State Board of Elections that they gave large checks to the party that they expected to be passed along to Easley. Board members have made reference to a special "Governor's Fund" within the party.

Falmlen said the term was a code applied to contributions so the party would know how much money Easley's campaign had raised for the party.

"It was not a bank account. It was a source code," Falmlen said.

Board to look at Dems' election plan

The State Board of Elections is looking at the N.C. Democratic Party's coordinated campaign plan for the 2000 election.

Former executive director of the party, Scott Falmlen, agreed to show the plan, which would normally be kept a closely-held secret. Board chairman Larry Leake said the board intended to keep portions of the plan secret and to prevent the document from becoming public.

The plan presumably would spell out the Democrat's plans to get out the vote and push the Democratic ticket.

For the purposes of the State Board of Elections hearing, Falmlen offerred to produce the plan to help show that the party did not agree to funnel illegal campaign contributions for former Gov. Mike Easley.

The get-out-the-vote effort would include mailers, robocalls and election day-poll workers and door knockers.

Above: Falmlen reviews the N.C. Democratic Party's plan to win the 2000 elections. Staff photo by Shawn Rocco.

One more witness remains

The State Board of Elections adjourned its hearing for the day at 4 p.m. and intends to call only one more witness — former N.C. Democratic Party chairman Scott Falmlen.

After former Gov. Mike Easley testified, two witnesses testified that they had little or no involvement or recollection of anything relevant to the hearing. It wouldn't have mattered if they did, because Easley's testimony was the story of the day. Some highlights:

NOT EVER: Easley directly contradicted the story told by McQueen Campbell — that Easley wanted Campbell to pay for repairs to his home with falsified invoices for flights. Both men can't be telling the truth. It's helpful to Campbell, then, that a campaign volunteer recalls Easley urging her to pay the invoice. Easley says he thought the invoice was for future flights.

FRUGAL GUY: Easley didn't like to spend money, so it caught Board chairman Larry Leake as a little curious that Easley never asked how much all those repairs to his house were costing him.

I MADE YOU: Easley began his testimony by reminding the board that he was the one who put a bunch of them on the board in the first place.

COORDINATION: The Democratic Party's defense is going to boil down to an argument that everyone has misunderstood the concept of a coordinated campaign. Yes, Easley was helping raise money for the party, but the party got to say what to do with it, according to the argument. Donors have testified they believed their money would be funneled to Easley.

Campaigns coordinated

Much of the testimony throughout the State Board of Elections hearings has focused on the coordinated campaign between former Gov. Mike Easley's gubernatorial campaign and the N.C. Democratic Party.

One of the major allegations that has surfaced is that donors believed that they could write big checks to the party that would then be directed to Easley, a scheme to skirt campaign finance law.

The party's defense seems to hone in on the fact that Easley's campaign had a $500,000 commitment to the party in advance of election day in 2004. The money was to be used for get-out-the-vote efforts and general promotion of Democratic candidates.

Easley's hired money raiser, Michael Hayden, said he wasn't briefed regularly on how Easley's campaign was raising for the party. But Hayden and Easley testified that the party's executive director, Scott Falmlen, controlled the money.

Jim Cooney, an attorney for the party, said Tuesday that Easley's campaign raised a lot more money for the party than it got back. Cooney sought to emphasize Wednesday that Easley's campaign and the coordinated campaign were distinct organizations.

"Part of the problem, I think, is we may be running some concepts together," he told Easley as he began asking questions as Easley's testimony neared its fifth hour.

Funneled contributions a strategy?

State Board of Elections chairman Larry Leake asked a series of questions Tuesday suggesting that the board believes Mike Easley's gubernatorial campaign had a strategy to funnel contributions through organizations in an effort to skirt contributions limits.

Dave Horne, a lawyer who served as campaign treasurer for Easley's first and second campaigns, testified that he was not aware of such a strategy. The board showed him several documents that suggested the campaign wanted contributions to go through political parties and organizations to get around the state's limit of $4,000 per individual for election cycle.

"This gives us the ability to raise money from entities thought prohibited such as corporations," Leake read from a document the board believes was prepared by a campaign official.

One of the organizations, according to testimony, was the Democratic Governors Association.

Update: Horne testified that Scott Falmlen, the former executive director of the N.C. Democratic Party, was clear that money in the possession of the party was the party's to spend in accordance with the law.

"He was aware of the law. We both knew the law and he was very clear about who controls funds in the possession of the Democratic Party," Horne said.

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