The money snapshot: interesting items in campaign finance reports



RALEIGH – While armchair quarterbacks digest the campaign fundraising numbers that came in over the weekend from candidates and groups across the state, a few realities are coming into focus. One is that the state-wide (state-wide candidates, legislative leaders, and the party) Democrats in total raised a little over $3.6 million, while state-wide Republicans raised almost twice that, coming in at just under $7 million.  The war chests of the party power brokers now stands at $4.3 million for the Democrats and $8.1 million for the Republicans.

Some analysts are saying that with Republicans the overall incumbents and an as-of-yet unchallenged Sen. Richard Burr running the fundraising show, the GOP’s strong numbers are no surprise. However, other watchers say that an unhappy minority party might mean a money surge for Democrats in the coming months, particularly as November 2016 approaches. However you look at it, there are a few items in the spending lines of some campaign reports that caught our attention. Here’s what made our short list of notables:

1. Sen. Fletcher Hartsell (R-Cabarrus County) – Hartsell filed his report saying his campaign cash in hand was “in dispute” because the State Board of Elections issued a report in May that says Hartsell spent at least $100,000 in campaign money on personal expenses, including shoe repairs and haircuts. The matter has been referred to state and federal prosecutors.

2. Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake) – Stein’s report showed that he made a $50 donation to Planned Parenthood for an event ticket. Stein also received $11,000 from Barbara and Jim Goodmon of Capital Broadcasting Company (WRAL) and $2,500 from Frank Daniels Jr., former owner of the News and Observer.

3. Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincolnton) – Saine spent almost $18,000 on suits from the Tom James Company, a high-end clothing store in Charlotte, listing the company as providing “professional services.” There was also an $826 bill from Jos. A. Bank for dress shirts.  Saine has cleared the purchases with the State Board of Election, but his fashion sense will certainly be under scrutiny as the members transition from summer seersucker to fall wools as the long session drags on.

4. Rep. Rick Catlin (R-Wilmington) – Catlin is not in House leadership and is serving just his second term, so it’s a bit surprising to see him nearing six figures in cash on hand ($93,740). Compare that to the current cash of other some members who are in leadership:  Speaker Pro-tem Paul Stam ($2,542) and Majority Leader MIke Hager ($24,006). And Catlin didn’t even raise any money this year; he reports $0 for receipts for 2015 through June 30.

5. Governor Pat McCrory (R) –  Contributions to the Governor’s re-election campaign came in at $1.3 million for the first half of the year, giving him almost $2.5 million in cash on hand. Notable though is that 60 percent of those donors chipped in less than $200 and more than one-third had never donated to McCrory before.

6. Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) – The anticipated Democratic challenger for governor raised just over $2 million since January. His campaign reports that nearly half a million dollars of that is donations from trial lawyers, drawing the ire of the N.C. GOP and proponents of tort reform. “These heavy donations from trial lawyers and attorneys, whose law firms have clients and interests before the state or in the court system, raise serious questions about potential professional and ethical conflicts of interest for the attorney general,” said N.C. GOP Chairman Hasan Harnett.

7.  Senate President Pro Temp Phil Berger (R) raised more money than House Speaker Tim Moore (R) – Berger is reporting just over $628,000 with Moore reporting just over $422,000.  While they are on the same team, a little competition keeps things interesting.