The financing for a deceptive mailer that distorts Democratic NC Senate candidate Terri LeGrand’s position on police reform traces back to a national GOP committee set up to help Republicans maintain control of state legislatures across the country.
Mailers went out earlier this week to voters in District 31, a hotly contested seat representing eastern Forsyth and Davie counties where the outcome is likely to determine which party controls the Senate. Republican incumbent Joyce Krawiec is defending the seat against LeGrand.
The mailer repurposes the LeGrand campaign’s turquoise color scheme and its lettering, and even the realist-comics-style likeness of the candidate that is a ubiquitous part of the campaign brand. On one side the flier shows LeGrand alongside images of US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, US Sen. Bernie Sanders and US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accompanied by the text, “Principled politicians support defunding the police. Terri LeGrand stands strong with them.”
On the other side, the mailer references Hate Out of Winston, a local group that has garnered attention for its work on removing the Confederate monument in Winston-Salem, advocating for Black studies in Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools, and, since the death of George Floyd, pushing for police reform.
“Terri LeGrand stands with Hate Out of Winston and their plan to defund the Winston-Salem Police Department,” the mailer says.
It looks like a mailer from the LeGrand campaign, although it is clearly labeled as being paid for by Citizens for a Better NC Senate, a Republican-aligned political action committee in Raleigh. The mailer also misrepresents the positions of not only LeGrand, but also Hate Out of Winston and House Speaker Pelosi.
“Once again, Joyce Krawiec and the dark money, special interest groups supporting her re-election have shown how desperate they are to win by lying about where I stand,” LeGrand said in a statement provided to Triad City Beat. “My position is clear — I do not support defunding the police. I support improving and rebuilding trust in our police, investing in mental health care and following the lead of the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity.”
The treasurer of the political action committee behind the mailer is C. Keith Tatum, a bail bondsman and Republican member of the Yanceyville Town Council in Caswell County. Tatum could not be reached for comment for this story.
Citizens for a Better NC Senate’s most recent campaign filing shows that the committee has made independent expenditures on direct mail on behalf of three Republican candidates for state Senate, including Krawiec in District 31, Amy Galey in District 24 and Lisa Barnes in District 11. Galey is involved in an acrimonious tussle with Democrat JD Wooten in District 24, covering Alamance and eastern Guilford counties, while Barnes is running against Democrat Allen Wellons in District 11 in Johnston and Nash counties, which is considered potentially competitive by some Democratic activists.
But Citizens for a Better NC Senate is only the last stop in a political-money sluice originating with the GOP establishment in Washington.
Records on file with the NC Board of Elections show that Citizens for a Better NC Senate, which was organized on May 19, is entirely funded by a similarly named committee — Citizens for a Better North Carolina. The second quarter report for the period ending on June 30 shows that 90 percent of the committee’s receipts — or $2.25 million out of $2.5 million — came from one source: a nonprofit in the DC suburbs called the Good Government Coalition. Other significant donors include American Federation for Children ($145,000), a DC-based organization that promotes charter schools; and RAI Trade Trade Marketing Services ($50,000), a subsidiary of Reynolds American in Winston-Salem. On Aug. 12, the Good Government Committee dumped another $500,000 into the North Carolina campaign committee. Reynolds American chipped in $50,000 on July 20.
In races like Senate District 31 where Democratic challengers have significantly outraised opponents, the ultraconservative Good Government Committee stands ready with a reserve of cash to wage information war on behalf of vulnerable Republican incumbents.
A 527 organization — so-named for the section of the tax code that applies to electioneering nonprofits — the Good Government Committee is “dedicated to electing the next generation of Republican leaders to state governments across America,” according to its website.
The organization’s “about” page charges that “the left is using the virus as an opportunity to restructure America with their socialist policies, and they’re using radical mega-donors like George Soros to influence local elections across the country.” The organization describes its mission as “to stop the extreme left from gaining these footholds and to support pro-growth candidates who are committed to limited government, economic growth, and law and order.”
The Good Government Coalition is closely linked to the Republican State Leadership Committee, which is dedicated to electing Republicans to state legislatures with an eye towards giving the GOP control of redistricting and, in turn, maximizing the number of congressional seats the party is able to dominate.
Staci A. Goede, a political consultant who serves as treasurer for the Good Government Coalition, was the CFO for the Republican State Leadership Committee from 2002 to April 2020, according to her LinkedIn page.
Matthew Walter, the president of the Good Government Coalition, formerly served as president of the RSLC from 2014 to 2019. After leaving the RSLC, he launched a consulting firm, MCW Strategies LLC, in September 2019, according to his LinkedIn page. The firm’s mission is described as “helping innovators and disruptors align their business goals with their government engagement portfolio, from startups to major global companies in banking and investments, healthcare, analytics software, energy, and government technology.”
A separate firm, HedgeRow Analysis, was founded by Walter in the same month to cater to the private equity sector. Through the company, Walter promises to “revolutionize how financial markets and private equity assess government and political impact on innovative, dynamic business sectors” and to help “investors make more informed, successful and profitable decisions about [how] business intersects with government.”
Walter could not be reached for comment for this story.
Since its establishment in January 2020, the Good Government Coalition has raised more than half of its funds — $2 million — from the Republican State Leadership Committee, according to its IRS filings. Other sources of funding are the NC Chamber of Commerce ($1.5 million) and GOPAC Election Fund ($1.25 million), which raises money from major corporations to fund Republican campaigns.
The Republican State Leadership Committee has reported hundreds of donations to the IRS this year to date. Five entities have contributed $1 million apiece: the US Chamber of Commerce; the conservative State Government Leadership Foundation; Texas oil and gas executive JC Walter III; Jan Duncan, a Texas energy service heir; and Michael Porter, a restaurant maintenance servicer in California.
The complex funding apparatus guiding political dollars into the Senate District 31 race reflects a national strategy by the GOP, from party standard bearer Donald Trump down to Krawiec herself to paint Democrats as committed to defunding the police as part of an effort to exploit white backlash against the protests for Black lives.
Krawiec herself made the claim that LeGrand supports defunding the police on her campaign Facebook page, citing an interview her opponent gave to the Kernersville News. Krawiec’s claim is unequivocally false.
The Kernersville News article raised the issue of “defunding the police,” and then went on to say, “LeGrand said, no, that’s not something she supports. What LeGrand does support is taking a hard look at how funding is dispersed and then funding what we value. For LeGrand, that would be putting more money into mental health and social services.” The article quotes the candidate as saying, “I think it’s important that we fund social services in a much better way. We should take a look at that.”
In response to an inquiry from TCB, Krawiec also cited a Facebook video showing a conversation between LeGrand and Miranda Jones, the founder of Hate Out of Winston, as evidence to support her claim that LeGrand supports defunding the police.
During the video, which was posted LeGrand’s campaign Facebook page on Aug. 12, the candidate listens respectfully to Jones, but does not articulate her own views.
Jones recounted suggesting to fellow activists in Hate Out of Winston shortly after the killing of George Floyd that they not use the term “defund.”
“I said, ‘Y’all, let’s not use the language of ‘defund’ because I’m sure y’all have seen some of the commercials, and that’s a red herring,’” Jones told LeGrand. “I said, ‘Let’s talk about “reallocate.”’ Again, we don’t have time for wordplay, but we have to make time for wordplay. In terms of reallocating, we said, ‘What are some preventative measures? What are some things that we can do, so that folks don’t end up in these negative situations either with another resident or with law enforcement?’ And so, we feel like we need to be thinking about that in terms of having more social workers, mental health.”
The position LeGrand has adopted on police reform isn’t far from the one articulated by Jones, but critically refrains from any call for reducing funding to law enforcement even as she advocates boosting investment in other areas.
“At the core of improving public safety is looking at our complementary services,” LeGrand said in a Sept. 7 Facebook post. “Improving community support systems, such as services for mental illness and substance abuse disorders, will reduce calls to the police. Increasing affordable housing has been shown in other cities to significantly reduce crime. These are just two examples of community investments that can lower the crime rate and improve the lives of our most vulnerable citizens.”
Hate Out of Winston said in a statement provided to TCB that the recent mailer targeting LeGrand shows that Citizens for a Better NC Senate and the Republican State Leadership Committee underestimate the intelligence of voters in Forsyth and Davie counties.
“In the Aug. 12 interview with Hate of Winston’s Miranda Jones, Terri LeGrand did not ask about defunding,” the statement reads. “Joyce’s funders want her constituents to believe that LeGrand supports defunding. Miranda brought that up to say that Hate Out’s position is not to defund, but to reallocate funding to social programs that could benefit the Black community.”
The statement noted that Krawiec and other Republican lawmakers have voted for laws that prevent the removal of Confederate monuments and that restrict the bathrooms that transgender people may use.
“Whenever anyone speaks about striving to achieve equity for Black and Brown citizens, the right has no answer as to why they oppose basic human rights for all people, so they simply lie,” Hate Out said. “Krawiec further enforced this trend, and as the self-appointed ‘common-sense conservative who believes that God has a plan for every life,’ clearly has no accurate plan for District 31 beyond manipulation of fact.”