Sunday, February 5, 2023

Super PAC money in play during local elections

2021 Election Day at the New Hanover County Senior Resource Center (Port City Daily photo/Alex Williams)

Two super PACs waded into the New Hanover County campaign scene in October to shell out thousands of dollars for a select group of candidates, campaign finance reports show. 

One of the groups, Conservative Leadership Committee NC, is a familiar player, having swooped in during last year’s board of commissioners race to financially oppose two progressive candidates, Leslie Cohen and Kyle Horton.

READ MORE: One Raleigh super PAC perfectly predicted the New Hanover County Commissioners election

The other super PAC, EDF Action Votes, is an environmentalist organization affiliated with the Environmental Defense Action Fund. It “works to defend climate champions and defeat those that would stand in the way of progress on a cleaner, healthier future,” according to its website.

On Oct. 19, EDF Action Votes made two payments totaling $17,703 in support of Wilmington’s incumbent mayor Bill Saffo, who faces former N.C. Senator Harper Peterson. (Peterson, a progressive, lists coastal preservation as one of his marquee issues). The money was sent to Blue Wall Mail, LLC and marked for direct mail ad buys in Saffo’s favor. 

“Our team led the pivotal Biden-Harris direct mail program that successfully educated voters on vote-by-mail, mobilized target voters and persuaded key demographics,” according to Blue Wall Mail’s website. “We helped the campaign turn Arizona blue and of course, restore Democrats’ Blue Wall of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.” 

Conservative Leadership Committee NC, which has backed certain local candidates — last year: Deb Hays, William Rivenbark and Jonathan Barfield — to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars in previous cycles, supported Republican city council candidates Luke Waddell and Charlie Rivenbark in October. 

The committee sent $37,028 to The Stewart Group, a Raleigh-based political consulting and public affairs firm, for mailers, according to campaign finance reports. 

Waddell, a real estate agent, was the beneficiary of an $18,514 mailer purchase on Oct. 20, and then another $9,257 buy two days later. Another $9,257 was dedicated to mailers for Rivenbark that same day. 

Candidates are legally barred from communicating with super PACs, which are not required to disclose much information about their donor rolls. 

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