This article first appeared at American Lens News on September 12, 2017.
After nearly a two-year silence on their website, the NC Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities, or NC CRED for short, recently released a statement on the status of Confederate monuments.
After an analysis of NC CRED’s affiliations and dealings, American Lens has discovered questionable dark money ties and a connection to the NC Advocates for Justice PAC, which is named in a campaign finance ethics complaint filed against Governor Roy Cooper.
American Lens has also uncovered that the COO of NC Advocates for Justice, Kim Williams is also the treasurer for the NC Advocates for Justice PAC. In addition, Williams is receiving emails sent directly to NC CRED.
The NC CRED Resolution
The NC CRED statement included a resolution, calling for the “immediate removal” of Confederate monuments and memorials statewide.
1. Calls for the immediate removal of all Confederate monuments, memorials, flags, and other symbols and markers of racism and white supremacy, from all public spaces on which a courthouse at any kind is located and the removal of such markers, monuments, and memorials from display inside courthouses; and,
2. Calls on the North Carolina General Assembly, which represents all of the people of North Carolina and is responsible for their safety and welfare, to repeal the Cultural History Artifact Management and Patriotism Act of 2015 (Session Law 2015-170), G.S. § 100-2.1, so that communities in North Carolina can remove these divisive symbols of racism, injustice, white supremacy from public spaces.
The mission of NC CRED, as stated on their website is, “The mission of NC-CRED is to identify, document, and alleviate racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.”
It is unclear how this resolution fits into either the mission or any of the projects the organization alleges to be involved in.
Governor Roy Cooper recently filed a petition in line with NC CRED’s resolution, calling for the removal of three monuments which have stood on the capitol grounds for a combined 330 years.
Who Is NC CRED?
NC CRED is a 501(c)3 organization that has had tax-exempt status since November 2014. Their website lists 6 board members and over 30 members.
The 2015 filing shows the organization paid out almost $5,000 for a speaker. American Lens sent a request to NC CRED asking who it was and for what event. The request was sent to the executive director, Rob Wall.
Our records indicate the email to Wall was received and first read on 09-08-17 at 11:13 a.m. by Kim Williams, COO of NC Advocates for Justice (NCAJ).
As of the publishing of this article, Neither Wall nor Williams has answered our email asking about discrepancies in their 990 filings, why they issued the monument resolution or our request for the charity filings that are missing from their Secretary of State profile.
Political PAC Has Ties to NC CRED
NC CRED’s board member list includes Dick Taylor CEO of NC Advocates for Justice (NCAJ), however, the NCAJ website makes no mention of Taylor nor includes a CEO on their staff list. The only mention of Taylor on the NCAJ website is under ‘patrons‘ on the “Enhanced Memberships” page. The NC CRED website has no bio for Taylor either.
Taylor is, however, listed as a lobbyist for NCAJ according to records at the Secretary of state. Also registered as a lobbyist for NCAJ are Kim Crouch, Todd Barlow, Randolph Cloud, Philip Isley, Kristin Parks and R. Palmer Sugg.
NCAJ’s address is the same as NC CRED: 1312 Annapolis Drive, Raleigh NC, 27605.
There is also a political PAC associated with NCAJ. State Board of Elections records indicates that the name is NC ADVOCATES FOR JUSTICE PAC [STA-C3291N-C-001].
According to the NC Board of Elections, as of February 6, 2017, the treasurer for this PAC is NCAJ’s COO, Kimberly Williams.
The 2016 endorsement by the NCAJ PAC were nearly all Democrats. Council of State endorsements were exclusively Democrat, including Josh Stein and Roy Cooper.
The PAC’s 2016 3rd quarter filing shows the maximum donation of $5,100 to Josh Stein, $5,100 Roy Cooper. The PAC’s 2016 endorsements list had donations which totaled $61,900.
Cooper has already been called out on ethics violations by the NC GOP for receiving campaign money while the legislature was still in session.
The fundraising complaint states that “It is also highly suspicious that Roy Cooper’s campaign started collecting checks from some “Hosts” before and immediately after his veto of HB 467. Furthermore, according to calculations of the “Hosts” contributions to the Cooper for North Carolina event, this event netted Roy Cooper nearly $50,000 during “regular session.”
According to the Cooper campaign finance report for the first half of 2017, the campaign took in more than $15,000 on June 19th from individual donors identifying as attorneys. The NC GOP complaint says the number is larger – some $50,000 in donations.
The NC GOP alleges that the NC Advocates for Justice was strongly opposed to House Bill 467, Agriculture and Forestry Nuisance Remedies. NC GOP Director, Dallas Woodhouse, said that NC Advocates for Justice was “aggressively involved” in lobbying against that particular bill. Cooper vetoed that bill and the fundraiser followed around a month later.
“The fact that they had legislation pending that directly impacted their members and their association, that makes it, to my way of thinking, a much more serious problem,” said NC GOP Chair Robin Hayes.
The NCAJ PAC also gave the maximum donation to Judge Bob Hunter, who sits on the Board of NC CRED. Hunter was the only NC CRED member listed on their about page to receive a donation from the NCAJ PAC.
NC CRED and Blueprint NC’s Financial Backer
According to the 2014 filing, NC CRED received $8,178 in public grants (Part 3, section A, 6) and $56,177 in total contributions. Yet, their filing for 2014 seems to be missing a $65,000 grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.
The 2015 filing shows no major organizations providing grants, but yet received $70,000 in donations. NC CRED was given a grant that year by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. NC CRED’s 2015 990 shows they paid out $65,000 with no staff related payments and only travel and expenses. Also in 2015, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation sponsored an internship at NC CRED.
In 2016, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation issued 183 grants totaling $8.8 million dollars.
That year, NC CRED received one of those grants for “For general operating support” under the heading “Social Justice and Equity.” The amount of that grant is not known as Z. Smith Reynolds has yet to file their 2016 IRS 990 form.
Between 2011 and 2015, Z. Smith Reynolds gave Blueprint NC $1,975,000 for “operating expenses.”
It is a certainty that 2016 was no different.
In 2013, an attack memo distributed by Blueprint NC was leaked to the press. The attack memo outlined a 2-year strategy to attack all Republican officials in the state.
This strategy was dubbed “Lose Forward” and instructed Blueprint members to “Eviscerate, Mitigate, Litigate, Cogitate and Agitate.”
NC CRED’s membership includes Rick Glazier, the Executive Director, NC Justice Center. The NC Justice Center is the parent organization of Blueprint NC.
Glazier was previously a Democrat Legislator for District 45 at the General Assembly and served as Minority Whip for a time. Glazier’s resignation from the General Assembly came in August 2015 in order to take the NC Justice Center job.
North Carolina Secretary of State: NC CRED Never Filed Any More Docs
Upon reviewing NC CRED’s profile at the Secretary of State’s website, only an initial creation document was found on file.
American Lens inquired with the NC Secretary of State’s office and received the equivalent of a shoulder shrug for a response.
“There have been no other documents filed with us,” wrote Mary McGregor Warren of the Business Registration Division.
When pressed on the missing filings such as organizational statement or issuance of a charity organization license, Warren replied the Charity Department would have to respond. As of this article, no one from the Charity Department has responded to our inquiries. American Lens also asked NC CRED for the usual documents filed for charities in the state, but no response has been forthcoming.
Despite charity licensing documentation being missing in the NC Secretary of State profile for NC CRED, the organization’s donation portal (Pay-Pal) is still active and can accept donations.