Campaigns

Democrats Fundraise off of Possible North Carolina Special Election

Through ActBlue, politicians solicit funds to be divided between them and McCready

Democrats are sending out fundraising solicitations for contributions to be split between themselves and North Carolina Democrat Dan McCready.  (Jeff Siner/The Charlotte Observer via AP)

It’s not yet known when or if there will be another election in North Carolina’s 9th District, but that’s not stopping politicians and PACs from using the prospect of such a contest for end-of-the-year fundraising — for Democrat Dan McCready and for themselves. 

McCready had conceded the race to Republican Mark Harris, but after the Associated Press retracted its call for Harris, McCready withdrew his concession. 

An email from Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan on Tuesday captured the general sense of these fundraising missives.

“Dan and his team put everything into the November race, and now we need help from our grassroots team to ensure they have the resources they need to pull off a victory in a special election,” Ryan wrote in the email. “Can we count on you to chip in to help Dan, and extend the blue wave into 2019?”

But chipping in to help McCready will also help Ryan. The numerous red “donate” buttons and hyperlinks in the email direct people to ActBlue, where contributions are automatically divided evenly between Ryan and McCready. Most fundraising emails disclose this split, but not always very prominently. Donors have to actively choose to allocate their contributions differently.

Splitting contributions like that is a common fundraising tactic for both candidates and outside groups who use other candidates to help them raise money for themselves. Democrats ranging from Rep.-elect Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, to New Hampshire Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, Arizona Rep. Tom O’Halleran, and Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, the incoming chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, all sent similar emails about McCready this month. 

Outside groups are getting in on the action, too. Equality PAC sent a Dec. 14 email soliciting contributions for McCready’s “special election fund.”

A special election has not been called in North Carolina, and McCready has not filed a statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission for another election. The state board of elections, which has declined to certify the election results, is holding a hearing on election fraud allegations on Jan. 11 and could eventually order a new election. North Carolina lawmakers this week passed legislation that would require a new primary if the election is redone. 

A 2009 advisory opinion from the FEC says that a candidate’s authorized committee may accept contributions to be used in a special election, “even though an election has not been scheduled and may not occur.”

The email from Equality PAC goes on to say: “But revotes are so, SO expensive — and Republicans will throw in EVERY DOLLAR they have to protect this seat!” (Emphasis/all caps is theirs.)

“PLEASE: Donate anything you can spare right now and we’ll send your gift DIRECTLY to North Carolina.”

But again, not all of that money is going directly to McCready. Donations will be evenly divided between McCready and Equality PAC unless donors choose to allocate the money differently. 

Emails like this are also a way for other politicians and groups to build their own email lists. A “NEWS ALERT” email from The Majority Rules PAC on Dec. 11 urged readers to sign its petition demanding a new election in the 9th District. 

“Add your name to demand Republican Mark Harris is not seated, and a new and FAIR election is held,” the email says. After signing up, readers are automatically directed to the ActBlue page for the Majority Rules, where contributions go just to the PAC and are not split.

The description on its ActBlue page reads: “The Majority Rules is a coalition of concerned citizens like you fighting to end partisan gerrymandering and ensure fair elections. We support candidates who share that vision, and your donation goes towards getting them elected.”

Iowa Democrat Jim Mowrer is the PAC’s treasurer. He lost the 2018 primary for Iowa secretary of state. He ran for Congress in 2016, losing to GOP Rep. David Young in the 3rd District. Two years before that, he lost to GOP Rep. Steve King in the 4th District.  

North Carolina Republicans are urging the state to certify the election results in the 9th District. But if there’s a new primary, Harris may not even be the nominee.

Harris had defeated McCready by about 900 votes, but absentee voting irregularities have raised concern about the integrity of the election. Harris admitted last week that he was the one who wanted to hire the contractor who’s been accused of illegally collecting absentee ballots. Harris has denied knowing about any wrongdoing. 

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