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NC Democratic Party outpaces NCGOP in fundraising

Anderson Clayton, N.C. Democratic Party Chair, poses for a portrait at the N.C. Democratic headquarters in Raleigh.
Matt Ramey
/
For WUNC
Anderson Clayton, NC Democratic Party Chair, poses for a portrait at the NC Democratic headquarters in Raleigh.

The North Carolina Democratic Party is leading its Republican counterpart in fundraising. Both parties have new leaders but Democrats enter election season with triple what the GOP has in the bank to fund campaign efforts.

The state political party organizations help build the infrastructure for successful campaigns. So far this election cycle, the state Democratic party has raised $5.26 million for its state and federal campaign accounts. The state Republican Party, meanwhile, has raised over $3.34 million across its accounts.

As of the latest campaign finance reports in February, the N.C. Democratic Party had $2.44 million on hand, while the NCGOP had $871,000.

Jim Womack, the Lee County Republican Party chairman who ran unsuccessfully for GOP chairman last week, said the party must do better to help its candidates win.

"Fundraising is anemic in our state party," Womack said. "We've got some really talented people working on it, but we really haven't delivered the value proposition to the donors."

He said many of the party’s past donors have decided to spend their money elsewhere.

"I know way too many donors that are on the sidelines right now that are not giving to the Republican Party, because they don't trust its leadership," Womack said. "They don't trust that we're going to be any different than the Democrats."

A spokesman for the NCGOP declined to make current party leaders available for an interview for this story. Jason Simmons was elected chairman last week, after former President Donald Trump tapped previous chairman Michael Whatley to lead the Republican National Committee.

Democrats, however, were happy to talk about their fundraising numbers. Anderson Clayton is in her second year as the party’s chair after unseating the previous chair, former state Rep. Bobbie Richardson.

"We are outraising 2020 numbers right now as a state party, and we're really excited to be able to go into this year with the resources that we need," Clayton said. "And we're expecting more of them to come, obviously, from a very strong coordinated campaign, and also the most competitive governor's race in the entire country."

Clayton, 26, said she encountered some reluctance from donors when she first started making fundraising calls.

"I had a donor look at me ... he was like, ‘I don't think I should give a 25-year-old that much money’ and I was like, 'You're not giving a 25-year-old that much money,'" she said. "'You're gonna give the state of North Carolina — a battleground state and a state that’s gonna be the road to the White House for Joe Biden — that much money.'"

The N.C. Democratic Party has raised more than $1.5 million from individual donors. The NCGOP has only raised about $170,000 from individual donors, with the bulk of its fundraising coming from campaign committees and PACs.

While most candidates face legal limits on how much each donor can contribute, the state parties can accept donations in unlimited amounts. And they aren’t the only fundraising groups with that option.

Other fundraising committees

Several years ago the legislature created Council of State committees to allow each party to raise money for its statewide candidates. Democrats have raised $6.89 million this cycle through the Democratic Council of State Committee, while the GOP counterpart to that group brought in less than $700,000.

Campaign consultant Scott Falmlen, who works for the Democratic Council of State Committee, said Gov. Roy Cooper is actively fundraising for the group even though he’s not on the ballot this year.

"I think he sees all of the work that he has done over the course of the last eight years put in jeopardy by the Republican slate of candidates, and I think he's very active on the fundraising side and and in every other aspect of the 2024 campaign up and down the ballot," Falmlen said.

Falmlen also said Democrats’ fundraising has gotten a boost from national attention surrounding Republican candidates for governor and attorney general.

"(Lt. Gov.) Mark Robinson and (Congressman) Dan Bishop kind of sell themselves to our donors as to why it's important to give to this organization," Falmlen said.

Another source of funding for state parties is their national counterparts. Records show the North Carolina Democrats have received about a million dollars from the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign. But only about $36,000 has flowed to the NCGOP from the Republican National Committee since last year.

Where the money goes

For both state party organizations, staff salaries and benefits have been some of the largest expenses so far this election cycle. Ahead of the primaries to determine their general election candidates, neither party did much advertising.

The N.C. Democratic Party has spent more than $53,000 in legal expenses since early 2023 through the law firm Wallace and Nordan.

The N.C. Republican Party started spending about $2,000 per month last fall on office space to the firm MCCA Properties. That company is owned by GOP campaign consultant Michael Luethy and was formed in August, a month before it began receiving rent payments from the NCGOP. Party spokesman Matt Mercer said the new space houses staff for the party's legislative caucuses, freeing up space in the Raleigh headquarters building owned by the party.

He did not respond to an inquiry about where the office is located; neither Luethy nor MCCA Properties own commercial or office property in Wake County, real estate records show.

Womack said party leaders need to be more transparent about how its money is spent. "The party has not had a a clearly defined and visible budget for a long time," he said.

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.
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