The North Carolina Republican Party is questioning the legality of a fundraiser Gov. Roy Cooper held at a trial lawyers’ convention several weeks ago, a complaint that the governor’s campaign promptly denounced as “baseless.”
GOP Chairman Robin Hayes asked state election officials Aug. 9 to investigate Cooper’s mid-June event, which took place at a Sunset Beach resort where the North Carolina Advocates for Justice was holding its annual meetings.
At that time, neither Advocates for Justice nor its political action committee could give money to Cooper’s campaign or solicit donations because the group has registered lobbyists and the General Assembly was still in session. Hayes’ complaint says the fact that several PAC board members were listed on Cooper’s invitation as event hosts points to possible illegalities, including in-kind contributions by the trial lawyers’ group PAC to Cooper.
“When you don’t follow the law, it’s a major concern,” Hayes said at a news conference.
Cooper campaign spokesman Morgan Jackson said the event was hosted by individuals, which is lawful, and the campaign paid all expenses.
“This is a baseless complaint,” Jackson said by email. He implied that Republicans are trying to use the complaint to distract from the governor’s latest positive polling numbers, which were also released Aug. 9..
Steve Bowden, a Greensboro attorney and PAC chairman at the time of the convention, was not listed as a host. He said in a phone interview the PAC followed the law and made no solicitations for Cooper.
The June 18 event list suggested donations from $500 to $5,200 — the maximum contribution during an election cycle. It’s not immediately clear how much was raised, although Cooper’s campaign report for the first half of 2017 lists the campaign receiving more than $15,000 from individual donors identified as attorneys on June 19. Cooper reported raising $447,000 during the first six months and holding $532,000 in his campaign coffers.