On Friday, the office of NC Governor Roy Cooper dumped a pile of nearly 20,000 documents related to the Pipeline slush fund being investigated by the General Assembly.
These documents appear to be 99% useless junk.
This document dump comes on the heels of the General Assembly hiring an investigator to look into $57.8 million dollar pipeline slush fund. That’s not a coincidence.
Neither is dumping it all right before the Christmas holiday.
I spent half the day sifting through them – they’re useless, narrative setting pieces of junk one might receive in response to a public records request.
Updated 01/13/19: I have yet to get the 4 Gig Download Link HERE to work. The file keeps saying it’s invalid and won’t unzip. If anyone has gotten it open, please get in touch with me. I need copies of all the text messages in these documents and the WRAL site makes finding those images nearly impossible.
Not a single item I’ve come across in that document dump is what the General Assembly has been asking for since finding out about the existence of a “mitigation fund” in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
The MOU put Cooper alone in charge of the $57 million and expressly states he can use the bank of his choice. The permit involved from the Dept. of Environmental Quality also appears to have been contingent on the so-called “mitigation fund.”
Carolina Journal’s Joseph Collett hit the nail on the head back in January of this year:
“The $57.8 million payment from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Dominion Power, and Duke Energy is clearly the quid for the Department of Environmental Quality’s quo of approving water permits for the pipeline. The dictionary defines something like this as bribery or extortion. The payment was made under threat to move the project forward.
“The structure of the deal seems designed to skirt the constitutional requirement for the General Assembly to approve the raising and spending of funds. An escrow account approved by the governor with expenditures tied to the governor’s wishes is surely not in keeping with the spirit of the law or the constitution.”
Remember that Cooper’s office originally called the $58 million a “voluntary contribution.” The governor’s own spokesman has called the arrangement “negotiations.”
That would have flown for a while, but shortly after Democratic Rep. Pricey Harrison let it slip that the MOU was “a condition of getting the permit granted.”
In short, Cooper gets his money. The pipeline people got their permit.
The MOU allows Cooper to do an end-run around oversight by the Legislature and the state treasurer and he can theoretically spend those millions however and wherever he wanted.
Cooper’s spending of those millions would be justified later on by making up whatever rules he wanted via Executive Order. It’s a classic pay-to-play scenario.
About Those Documents Cooper Suddenly Released
It is my suspicion that this document dump is actually just a public records request. In fact, given who broke the story and who stars in many of the documents, it’s likely WRAL’s public records request.
I base this on the fact that, despite WRAL saying Cooper’s office announced it, there was no press release containing these documents by the Cooper administration.
A Google search shows that WRAL exclusively was writing about the release of these documents. No other outlet reported on it until after WRAL posted the documents.
Also, first 20 pages on the WRAL website are the most recent interview that WRAL’s Travis Fain had with Cooper’s top aide, Ken Eudy, and various spokespersons like Sadie Weiner.
WRAL almost admits right up front in their second of two back-to-back articles that this is a public record request dump. Emphasis added:
The administration released more than 5,700 documents Thursday after 5 p.m. The document dump is a response not only to the General Assembly’s repeated requests for information, but to media requests, including one filed by WRAL News in February and only partially filled at the time.
It will take time to dig through the documents. Most of those reviewed by WRAL News Thursday night were simply emailed news articles mentioning the pipeline, press releases the state put out about the pipeline and various news alerts mentioning the project. There is also a transcript of a WRAL News interview with Cooper’s deputy chief of staff and members of Cooper’s press office.
And that transcript is the first thing you read when you pull up the page WRAL is housing the documents on. To be clear, this set of interview documents being the first thing a reader sees is an obvious attempt to set a ‘poor innocent Roy Cooper’ narrative.
I mean, come on…how dumb do they think their readers are? It’s not like WRAL has already gone to bat for Cooper over this slush fund, right? Oh, wait… They did.
Fun Bits In The Document Dumpster Fire
The original amount discussed for the MOU appears to have been $80 million.
There are some talking points about Cooper opposing offshore drilling peppered throughout the documents. None of them have anything to do with the pipeline or the MOU/slush fund, but it’s interesting to see Cooper back an oil pipeline he’s getting money for while opposing drilling where he’s not getting a dime.
Cooper’s top aide Ken Eudy mocking former Governor Pat McCrory who questioning the pipeline MOU. Eudy writes in an email reply “hasn’t he found a job yet?”
Two of the more far left legislators, Sen. Terry Van Duyn and Rep. Darren Jackson, went to bat for Cooper in a memo to commissioners in the counties where the pipeline would likely run through.
Several pages about Strata Solar — a solar company Cooper and his brother have had very lucrative and sketchy dealings with and of which NC media has had zero interest in covering, save Don Carrington at Carolina Journal.
There were hundreds of pages (most of them were duplicates) regarding the “Climate Change Alliance.” This alliance and their agenda have zero to do with the issues surrounding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline MOU.
Roy Cooper is famous for avoiding email so that he has zero paper trail.
This document dump has a fine example of that with a set of text messages between Cooper and his counsel, William McKinney, discussing the MOU.
And just what did they “discuss earlier?” We likely will never know.