WRAL Misses Mark on Dark Money Group Fundraiser

This article first appeared at American Lens News on November 20, 2017.

Local media outlet, WRAL, missed the mark on the Dark Money fundraiser Governor Cooper and Attorney General Stein will be attending later this month.

What WRAL gave readers was a sanitized, 30,000-foot view of the dark money group, barely mentioning in passing that Moving NC Forward is a 501(c)4 organization and as such, does not have to disclose its donors.

We’re going to take a more detailed look at the organization Governor Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein are choosing to align with.

Perkins Coie Ties

According to Secretary of State records, the incorporation filing for Moving NC Forward was signed by Jonathan Berkon, a partner at Perkins Coie law firm. That’s the same firm which former Clinton campaign attorney Marc Elias works for. Both Elias and the firm were revealed to have facilitated the payment to Fusion GPS for the error-riddled Trump dossier.

Elias and Berkon were also the lawyers for Roy Cooper during the 2016 election when the McCrory camp filed a recount request.

“Voting issues are a part of Jonathan’s counsel background, and, most recently, he served on the legal team that successfully defended North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s victory during a post-election canvass and partial recount. Jonathan helps clients plan voter protection and post-election programs, and companies regularly tap his knowledge of
state voting laws as they develop technology to encourage voter participation and citizen engagement in the political process.”

Berkon also worked for “Obama Campaign for Change, Madison, WI, Deputy Voter Protection Director, 2008.”

According to Moving NC Forward’s creation filing document, the registered agent for the group is a services clearinghouse group called CT Corporation System.

Moving NC Forward And Cooper For NC Committee

Moving NC Forward has at least one former Cooper for NC staffer on board. According to the fundraising disclosure form for Moving NC Forward, Kate Connelly, the former finance director for Cooper for NC, is listed as the person of record.

Press spokesman for the Governor, Porter Ford, told WRAL that Cooper would, “speak at the conference but is not involved in any fundraising.”

Ford’s statement is laughable, as the Governor’s very appearance at the group’s year-end event is a fundraising opportunity for Moving Forward NC – and fundraising has been good. Moving Forward NC’s fundraising is centered on selling access to Governor Cooper and his staff.

Budget documents filed with the NC Secretary of State show that half a million dollars was raised since Moving NC Forward was formed in December of 2016. The budget documents state that expenses for “Contract Services” included communications at $100,000 and fundraising at $50,000.

Moving NC Forward Board = NC Democratic Party Elites

Tom Hendrickson, Stella Adams and Jewell Wilson are all high level, long-time NC Democratic Party donors. This trio makes up the Board for Moving NC Forward.

The Twitter account profile for Hendrickson, reads in part, “Democratic politics = my avocation, not my vocation.” Forming a dark money group to promote progressive Democrat policies seems like more than just a hobby.

Hendrickson is currently a ‘land developer’ with Veridea, Lookout Ventures, Inc. and was Chair of the NC Democratic Party from 1993 to 1995.

Board member Stella Adams is the Chief of Civil Rights at National Community Reinvestment Coalition and a member of the Democratic Party executive committee, Notably, Adams was arrested at Moral Monday sit-in at Senator Thom Tillis’ D.C. office in May 2014.

Jewell Wilson is a former John Edwards staffer. Wilson is listed as the treasurer for Moving NC Forward and has a nearly zero digital footprint, save for records of campaign donations to every major Democrat candidate in the state going back to 2002.

WRAL Omits Nexus Strategies Details

According to records filed with the North Carolina Secretary of State, Moving NC Forward’s address is 434 Fayetteville Street, Suite 2020 in Raleigh. That is the same address that was used for a group focused on transit issues called Moving Wake County Forward. It’s also the same address as Nexus Strategies.

In an earlier report on Moving NC Forward, WRAL mentioned the ties to Nexus Strategies but omitted it in their most recent publication.

Nexus Strategies was founded by Scott Falmlen,  the former executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party (1999-2005).  Neither WRAL report mentions this key detail.

Falmlen was and still is as of the latest 2017 filings, the “Custodian of Books” for Cooper for North Carolina committee.  The Cooper for NC committee’s 2017 mid-year filings shows that Falmlen’s Nexus Strategies has been paid $106,681.95 over around 20 installments.

Falmlen is also still listed as the treasurer and custodian of books for the Josh Stein for Attorney General committee. According to the Stein committee’s  2017 mid-year semi-annual filing, Falmlen’s Nexus Strategies has been paid $15,894.88.

Another point WRAL does not include beyond Scott Falmlen’s involvement with Moving NC Forward goes back to 2012. That year, an NC Democratic Party staffer filed a bombshell sexual harassment claim against former executive director, Jay Parmley.  According to WRAL’s own report, the accuser contacted Scott Falmlen, who then downplayed the accuser’s claims.

WRAL’s light-handed report on a dark money group with direct ties to both the NC Governor and Attorney General comes on the heels of a shamelessly biased and ginned up ‘nothing burger’ report by WRAL. That report takes aim at Cooper’s possible 2020 challenger, Lt. Governor Dan Forest.

The article referenced in the Tweet above will be hitting American Lens this week.

[ Related: After Inquiry, WRAL Explains Missing Vote Count Article ]

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips: APDillon@Protonmail.com
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