Wide gap in campaign finance favors incumbents

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Justin Outling

by Eric Ginsburg

Finance reports from primary election candidates tell who’s receiving support — and from where — before the Greensboro City Council primary on Oct. 6.

Nancy Vaughan didn’t collect or spend a dime on her reelection campaign this month, and why should she? The Greensboro mayor already had almost $25,000 cash on hand by Sept. 2, and her two opponents don’t plan to raise more than a grand.

For challenger Sal Leone, a Thomasville police officer, it’s a point of pride. In a recent candidate forum, he bragged about his decision not to accept donations, arguing that there would be nobody pulling his strings. Follow the money, he claimed, and you’ll see who controls other candidates.

Donors kicked in a considerable amount of money to the two incumbents in this year’s primary races — Mayor Nancy Vaughan and, in District 3, Justin Outling. Together, Outling’s two opponents had raised less than $3,000 as of Monday, not much compared to Outling’s $10,210 total in individual contributions so far.

The gap is more startling in the mayor’s race, where Leone and fellow challenger Devin King signed statements that they don’t plan to raise more than $1,000 each this election cycle, allowing them to avoid filing detailed paperwork.

Vaughan disagreed with Leone’s characterization, saying she has pushed for more transparent economic disclosures for council, while adding that people can make their own conclusions about her broad cross-section of contributors. She received the biggest gift from her husband. Don Vaughan, a lawyer and former Democratic state senator, kicked in $2,861, including $325 in-kind in the form of beer, wine and setup for a fundraiser.

Vaughan received considerable financial support from homemakers, including Joanne Schlaginhaufen ($900), Anne Hummel ($800), Leig Seager ($625) and Kellie Melinda ($500). Together they gave more than Vaughan’s second biggest contributor this cycle, Joseph M. Bryan, who added $1,500 to the mayor’s efforts. Jim Melvin, a former mayor and president of the Bryan Foundation gave $850, as did retired Cone Health executive Dennis Barry. The only other gift above $800 came from community volunteer Melanie Soles ($975).

Other notable donors to Vaughan’s campaign include developers such as Milton Kern ($500) and George Carr III ($300), of Beacon Management Group. Gordon Craig, Ronald Mack, and Stephen Showfety — respectively the CFO, executive vice president and president of Koury Corp., — each wrote checks for $350, as did Triad Local First director Luck Davidson.

Here are a few more: Downtown Greensboro Inc. COO Cyndy Hayworth ($150), lawyer and school board chair Alan Duncan ($100), former mayor Carolyn Allen ($200), former Greensboro Housing Coalition director Beth McKee-Huger ($450) and Susan Schwartz, the executive director of the Cemala Foundation ($250).

As noted above, Vaughan’s challengers Leone and King do not have to file campaign finance reports if they remain below the $1,000 threshold.

Early voting runs from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. thru Friday and 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Saturday. Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. on Election Day (Oct. 6).

Justin Outling, who was appointed to fill the remainder of Zack Matheny’s council term in District 3 but who hasn’t been elected yet, received significant financial backing from a wide number of people. But there’s one thing that unites many of his donors — 20 of them work for the same employer.

Outling is a lawyer at Brooks Pierce, and his campaign finance reports show that the people who work there would like to see him win. In total, his colleagues have given $4,525, according to his latest report filed on Monday, out of $10,210 total raised from individuals. His biggest contribution topped out at $500, a level at which six people gave: Brooks Group President Jefferson Brooks, Jeff Oleynik and Reid Phillips at Brooks Pierce, UNCG Vice Chancellor Janis Zink (Outling’s alma mater), developer Marty Kotis, and McKee-Huger.

His family members around the state, lawyers Jennifer and Peter Brevorka in Houston and Buffalo respectively and local foundation heads Jim Melvin and Susan Schwartz (listed above for gifts to Vaughan’s campaign) also back Outling’s candidacy.

Michael Picarelli, a member of the state Human Relations Commission and former head of the Guilford County GOP, trails Outling financially by a wide margin, though he’s brought in almost double what contender Kurt Collins has raised. Picarelli has $1,942 from individuals, according to his latest report. The biggest chunks came from Don Lyons, the president of Laurent Lyons Lighting in Boca Raton, Fla., and retired CEO and local Edward LeBlanc, each who contributed $500.

Picarelli has emphasized that the race is nonpartisan, but a significant portion of his support seems to come from a Republican base. LeBlanc, who ran a division of smoke and carbon monoxide alarm manufacturer Kidde PLC in Mebane, donated $2,500 to Romney’s 2012 presidential bid. Party activist and former candidate Teresa Yon, a proponent of the downtown noise ordinance, is Picarelli’s treasurer. She gave $208 in in-kind contributions and Lindsay Burkart, a Republican activist and community volunteer, donated $134.

Kurt Collins’ raised even less — $1,200 from individuals and $1,565 total, according to his finance report filed Monday. His two biggest donors kicked in $200 each: self-employed photographer and prominent tea partier Jeff Hyde and James Forster, the owner of Jae-Mar Brass & Lamp Co. near the Worx restaurant in downtown Greensboro. Only three other contributors are listed by name in Collins’ reports — Janet Wallace, Pamela Hanzaker and Tina Forsberg — each who gave $100 in August.

If fundraising abilities are any indication of support, the odds are overwhelming chance that Outling will make it through the primary on Oct. 6. To catch up financially, Picarelli or Collins will either need to fine-tune their sales pitch or pony up themselves, something Outling has already done for his campaign to the tune of $5,827.

  • From the article:

    “Vaughan disagreed with Leone’s characterization, saying she has pushed for more transparent economic disclosures for council, while adding that people can make their own conclusions about her broad cross-section of contributors.”

    Seriously?

    Jamal Fox failed to disclose he owns a house.

    Nancy Hoffmann fails to disclose she still works for Reffett Associates and has various partnerships with downtown developers.

    Yvonne Johnson fails to disclose her non profit One Step Further is funded by the City of Greensboro.

    Mike Barber fails to disclose in kind contributions by the City to his non profit, First Tee of the Triad and has refused to release his Federal Form 990s for 2 years.

    Mayor Vaughan failed to disclose her and Donald Vaughan’s vast holdings in Carolina Bank which holds over $700,000 in debt for the ICRCM and also failed to disclose it to the board of the ICRCM.

    And Triad City Beat reported none of it despite the fact that I documented all of this over a year ago. Where were you, Eric?

    • I’ve never heard of a single one of those, Billy. Just because you wrote about it doesn’t mean I saw what you wrote. You have my email address, and you can send important things my way if you want.

      • No Eric, I don’t have your e-mail address. You blocked me at Yes-Weekly and I haven’t heard from you since but if you’d like the documents you can e-mail me at [email protected]

        And Eric, how is it you know I wrote about those subjects if in your words, ” it doesn’t mean I saw what you wrote…”

        After all, I never said I posted it to my blog, I said ” I documented all of this over a year ago.”

        Assumptions make for very poor journalism and get you caught every time.

        • Brian Clarey

          Billy Jones: “Assumptions make for very poor journalism.” Ha ha ha!

          • I left Eric my e-mail address above, he has yet to contact me so I can send him the evidence. What’s up with that, Brian?

      • I left you my e-mail address, Eric, are you going to let me send you the evidence or not?

  • Is it worth mentioning George Carr’s business with the City?

    Is it worth mentioning Koury Corp’s hand outs from the City?

    Is it worth mentioning Betty Cone’s profits via DGI?

    How about Shirley Frye’s husband’s law firm doing the City’s redistricting legal work and her connections to the Civil Rights Museum giveaways?

    How about Tom Hall’s “shovel ready” loans Nancy voted for?

    How about Ross Harris’ taxpayer funded profit from the TPAC deal?

    Cyndy Hayworth’s continued income via DGI?

    Does the name Isaacson ring a bell?

    How about Jim Melvin’s $2 million plus for the Megasite project and his connections to Mike Barber’s income via First Tee of the Triad?

    Donna Newton and TPAC.

    Jim Phillips is representing the City for Council at taxpayer expense for redistricting at Brooks Pierce. Doesn’t that justify some kind of mention?

    How about Sam Simpson’s commissions for Jim Melvin’s Megasite deal? He’s up a couple hundred thousand off Greensboro’s taxpayers.

    And Arthur Winstead, Mike Barber’s campaign treasurer who gets paid 0 but makes 700% more than First Tee’s last accountant. Not worth noting?

    How about Don Vaughan, who has made hundreds of thousands from the White Street methane deal while his wife Nancy served on the solid waste commission?

    How about all the signs on Marty Kotis’ properties?

    • Walle, A.

      Coincidentally enough, I stopped reading @ “Kotis,” and, as a result of reading too much, stopped believing, long ago; in other news, what the hell happened to the United States?

      Politicians handed the country over to the rich–and we let them: if everyone standing in line @ the club on the weekends, stood outside buildings designed to dominate us all–even one night out of the year, unannounced, and that includes checking for weapons–then every night of the week would be a party; the catch is that most people don’t even know they’re being taken long before they get ready to hand their paychecks over to the club.

  • Devin King

    I second that… what he said .

  • sal leone

    I hope people are not stupid but I have to re-think that at times. Do people really think developers give money out to just anyone because I never got a dime. You see money is given out on a what have you done for me lately. I see Melvin gave out some money, just odd that a little bit later after that the megasite water extension was approved, oh by the way who’s foundation is running that, any guess. What about Outlings law firm which gave out money, I am sure glad they voted to fight SB 36 because that law firm just made lots of money, but that’s just odd. oh wait how much money did Kotis give, wait he did get some nice votes on council, just odd I guess and someone please tell that daddy’s little boy that old oak ridge road is in dist 5, he put Nancy Hoffman signs out on his property, that fool should know that Hoffman has no race, if his daddy didn’t leave him the business he be in the restaurant business still but he be washing dishes.

    • sal leone

      I should not be hard on Kotis, he might just be a good guy after all. The misplaced signs might have a reason and he seems like a smart guy since he is taking the business higher then when he got it.