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Roy Cooper, Pat McCrory spar on voting lawsuit

Attorney General Roy Cooper said Tuesday that it is an “unnecessary expense” for Gov. Pat McCrory to hire an outside attorney to represent North Carolina against the Obama administration’s lawsuit challenging the state’s new voting law. “Our office continues to have the primary responsibility to defend the state,” Cooper told reporters. “Our staff will continue to do that.”

The Democrat’s remarks sparked a political blame game about how the state is defending the lawsuit – one with implications for 2016, when Cooper is considering challenging the Republican governor.

Responding to Cooper’s remarks, Bob Stephens, McCrory’s chief legal counsel, said the cost “falls squarely at the feet of the attorney general.”

Morning Memo: GOP fundraising, Rural Center face major questions

GOP ABANDONS PLEDGE FOR TAX REFORM: From Rob Christensen's column: Tax reform in North Carolina died last week. RIP. …The House has rolled out its plan, and the Senate has rolled out an alternative plan. Those plans focus almost exclusively on cutting corporate and personal income taxes, rather than revamping the 1930s tax code. So tax reform is dead. In its place, we have large tax cuts, the size and shape of which will be worked out in a House-Senate conference committee. Cutting taxes is in the Republican comfort zone. Reforming the tax code is not. Full story.

LOBBYING FIRM ACTED AS TILLIS, McCRORY FUNDRAISING CONDUIT: The giving by the sweepstakes industry also puts a spotlight on fundraising efforts organized by McGuireWoods. Multiple contributions from sweepstakes operators were often recorded on the same days, with the largest group coming on May 16, 2012, when the Tillis campaign tallied a total of $60,002 from 19 individuals. Days earlier, on May 10, McGuireWoods held a fundraiser at its Raleigh office attended by Payne and lobbyists from other organizations. Harry Kaplan, a McGuireWoods lobbyist, said he invited clients who were interested in meeting with Tillis to talk about the issues they represented. They could also make campaign contributions, which some did, he said.

***More on Tillis, McCrory campaign fundraising, the sweepstakes industry and questions clouding the N.C. Rural Center and top Republicans below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: McCrory closes Latino outreach office

North Carolina’s Latino advocates are voicing alarm following the governor’s decision to eliminate the state’s office for Latino affairs. The closing of the Office of Hispanic/Latino affairs was sudden and caught many by surprise. The move appears to have exacerbated the already tense relationship between Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and the Latino community, including criticism over a driver’s license plan for young immigrants.

Advocates says it sends a message that McCrory and Raleigh conservatives are less concerned with the needs of the Latino community. Paradoxically, it comes at a time when issues of deep concerns, like immigration, are at the political forefront and Republicans nationally are trying to appear more welcoming to Latinos.

***Thanks for reading the Good Friday edition of the Dome Morning Memo. Send tips and news to dome@newsobserver.com. More on the Latino office and other big headlines below.***

Pat McCrory's campaign cleared in elections complaint

Pat McCrory's campaign did not violate campaign finance laws when it came to disclosing trips to the state by big GOP luminaries, a state investigation found.

Democrat Walter Dalton's campaign alleged that a flight taken by S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley to a McCrory campaign event was not a corporate contribution. Donors Ralph and Linda Huff reimbursed the plan's owner for the flight, the State Board of Elections reported Thursday.

GOP campaign finance complaint against Dalton, Perdue dismissed

State officials dismissed a Republican campaign finance complaint filed days before the November election that alleged illegal collusion between Democrats Walter Dalton and Bev Perdue.

The state Republican Party said it identified 65 donors who received refunds from Perdue's campaign committee who later made contributions to Dalton, the Democratic candidate for governor. But in a letter dated Tuesday, the State Board of Elections said all 65 donations identified as suspect were legitimate.

"Our office found no campaign finance violations ... for these contributions and as such this matter is considered resolved," the letter states.

Morning Memo: McCrory gets campaign cash from indicted donor, Hudson on the rise

GOP GOV REPORTS CAMPAIGN CASH WELL AFTER ELECTION DAY: Pat McCrory won the governor's race Nov. 6 but campaign donors kept filling his coffers through the end of the year, according to new campaign finance reports. The Republican reported raising more than $42,000 after Election Day putting his total haul for the entire campaign at $12.3 million -- nearly three times as much as Democratic rival Walter Dalton, who raised $4.3 million.

McCRORY REPORTS DONATION FROM INDICTED DONOR:One more donation listed after the election: Trawick "Buzzy" Stubbs. He gave McCrory $1,000 in a check reported Nov. 27.

Stubbs was indicted in 2012 for his political donations to Gov. Bev Perdue in the 2008 race involving a plane he allowed the Democrat to use in the campaign. He is charged with obstruction of justice and causing the campaign to file false reports. After his indictment, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, then just a candidate, returned the $250 donation Stubbs gave his campaign. The case is still pending and Stubbs is challenging the charges.

This is the Dome Morning Memo, a political tipsheet covering North Carolina politics. Read more campaign finance exclusive and a news roundup below.

Walter Dalton spent $4.3 million in his losing bid for governor

Democrat Walter Dalton spent $4.3 million in his losing bid for governor, according to campaign finance reports filed Thursday.

Dalton, who lost by 11 points, just couldn't match GOP rival Pat McCrory's spending. He raised $4.28 million and left only $12,192.60 in the bank, as of Dec. 31. (McCrory has yet to file his final report, but led Dalton 6-to-1 in campaign cash days ahead of the election.)

In the final two weeks, Dalton raised $385,000 and spent $641,000 -- decent numbers but not enough. He spent about a third of the money on media advertising in the final days but none of it moved the needle. He lost by about the same margin as polls indicated weeks ahead of time.

Morning Roundup: 5 reasons why Obama lost N.C.; McCrory's new challenge

President Barack Obama almost ran the table Tuesday night when it came to battleground states. The lone exception: North Carolina.

Of a dozen competitive states, it was the only one that went from Democratic blue in 2008 to Republican red this year. Why didn’t Obama carry the Tar Heel State? Read five reasons here and see a map of results here.

More political headlines:

--Pat McCrory on Thursday will set foot in the Capitol for the first time as governor-elect. A block north, he will see a major challenge facing his administration: the N.C. General Assembly. 

--The 7th Congressional campaign and the lieutenant governor's race are headed to overtime. A recount looms.

Pat McCrory is the only new GOP governor in the country

Pat McCrory is the only new Republican governor elected Tuesday -- winning in counties where President Obama claimed victory but not the one where he grew up.

McCrory acknowledged his outlier win as he thanked his team during a press conference Wednesday. "I think they ran one of the best campaigns ever in North Carolina history and in this nation," he said. "Our campaign strategy worked and it was obviously ... quite unique in the outcome as compared to the rest of the nation."

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