Is #ReopenNC an Illegal PAC?

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen that the supposedly grassroots ReopenNC Facebook group is not some grassroots movement of disgruntled citizens, but an astroturfed movement backed by money from the DeVos and Koch political dark money war chest.

Now, with details trickling out that ReopenNC is getting “generous donors” for chartered buses for protests and legal representation, we have a “behind the scenes” report from Politico showing that this entire effort can be traced back to one goal - a last ditch effort by the Trump campaign to rally his base - an effort based on polling of white suburbs in Trump battleground states.

Conservative groups have noticed a change in polling in recent weeks when they ask respondents if they want to go back to work, even if they know the outbreak could continue to cause infections or deaths, and if they would be willing to wear protective gear, such as masks and gloves, in order to reopen the country. Some polls saw upticks as large as 20 percentage points of people willing to return to work, even with the caveats, according to said Brandon and others familiar with the polls. The FreedomWorks polling was conducted in suburban House districts in battleground states, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

One operative noted:

“If you don't see something start to happen … you’re going to see a conservative revolt by our base,” said Adam Brandon, president of FreedomWorks, a conservative group which recently polled on reopening the economy. “The worst strategy for him is to keep things shut until August. Trump is basically going to win or lose his election right now, in the next month.”

It’s time to ask the North Carolina Board of Elections to probe ReopenNC as an illegal political action committee. The organizers of the Facebook group and protests have not been forthcoming about whether they are directly receiving money for their work with this group. It is definately receiving outside funding and is coordinating with larger national efforts by dark money-funded groups aimed specifically at Trump’s reelection.

Contact the NC Board of Elections here.

There is precedence for a complaint of this type. In January, the NCBOE was asked by a campaign finance watchdog group to investigate the Sons of Confederate Veterans for similarly violating tax and campaign finance laws. There couldn't be anything more blatantly flying in the face of campaign finance laws than #ReopenNC.

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Update - the ReopenNC buses are "cancelled"

WRAL continues to give attention to #ReopenNC without raising concerns about the makeup of this group, the numbers of their followers on Facebook (How many of the followers re real or even located in NC?), and the likely connection of the group and organizers with other dark money and Trump campaign groups backing protests in other states.

Questions about the group's financial backing must be having an impact:

Biller and Smith both said ReOpenNC will have social distancing measures in place at the outdoor rally. A video posted to YouTube in recent days, purportedly featuring co-founder Kristen Elizabeth, said the group planned to bus people in from eight cities around the state and that an unnamed donor would cover the costs.

"I want every seat filled," the woman says in the video.

But Smith said the group canceled the buses. She said ReOpenNC is "completely grass roots and ... did not accept any donations."

Biller also said the group won't rent buses, though some people have discussed organizing buses for friends and family.

Perhaps the group's lawyer told them to STFU about donors and expensive chartered buses.

Why is WRAL continuing to give featured news space to what is obviously a political stunt to benefit Trump's campaign?

Too late, the donor cat's out of the bag

I have no doubt their lawyer is doing damage control. But I also doubt it's "their" lawyer. Michael, Best & Friedrich is a national firm, and they're probably not big on pro-bono. Somebody's paying their bills, and the public deserves to know who.

I can't really find ....

... anything funny about this situation.

I'm completely and utterly sick and tired of NC's news outlets abandoning their responsibility and allowing this group to spread lies, unchecked, about a life and death pandemic for the sake of a small group of well-heeled donors that want to reelect Trump.

People are going to be very sick and die because of the efforts of these astroturfed groups around the country.

Recently, I've been doing a bit of reading and research around the JFK assassination, particularly the John Birchers and General Walker. Back then, they used similar tactics - a small group would get funding from ultra-conservatives to disrupt public events and protest to get news coverage. The same people popped up, over and over again, supported by a small group of Dallas nutcase elites who would buy them props, signs, flyers, and ads.

The most famous ad, of course, being the "Wanted for Treason" poster that was plastered around Dallas and appeared as full-page paid for ads by these groups during JFK's trip to the state. And, a few months before JFK's visit, the backers bought noise makers, signs, and ads for a small group of protestors to interrupt Secretary of State Dulles's speech on the UN - yes, that was the one that got world-wide press coverage when Dulles was spat upon and physically assaulted by the protestors who were wanted the US out of the UN.

While the Dulles story got widespread coverage around the US and other countries, giving Dallas the reputation of "the city of hate", the locals were well aware of who and what this small group of protestors were and the Dallas leaders that were giving them money.

Local reporters didn't put up with their shit and, for the most part, accurately reported on them - they didn't succumb to "both sidesism" and being afraid to offend a small portion of their conservative readers or advertisers who agreed with these groups and their tactics.

One Dallas mid-day talk program, which had political and business leaders, had one of the leaders of this group as a guest one day. After the guy ranted conspiracy theories for ten minutes, with the reporter not getting him to factually answer any question, the reporter simply turned the the guy and said "Thank you for being with us today" and ended the program twenty minutes early.

Where is that kind of journalism today? In fact, where is journalism at all? I'm not seeing it with the high profile news outlets in NC's metros today.

If it's not #ReopenNC, then it's Franklin Graham, Dan Forrest, Berger and Moore, or Art Pope's Civitas and "Carolina Journal" are given a pass by NC's press. There are isolated publications like "Indy Week" and a few reporters around the state doing their job.

But, for the most part, NC's tv news outlets seem to be more concerned about their social media presence and good looking hair than minimally competent news reporting that doesn't publish a statement or press release from an ultra-right wing group without question or fuller background. And many of NC's newspapers play the same game, publishing op-eds from Civitas and other Pope flunkies without disclosing to readers who is backing them and putting them in proper context.

It's a shame that I'm having to read news stories from competent journalists in other states to get the full story on what is happening in my own backyard.

Good catch

I'm wondering how many campaign finance laws are being broken with just #ReopenNC alone.

I second that emotion

Let's see the right-wing nutters try to rationalize this:

I would also hope the news media picks up on this connection, but I'm not confident they'll have the cojones to report it.