Retired Raleigh attorney Bernard Harrell has asked the State Board of Elections to investigate Attorney General Roy Cooper’s political campaign for not reporting in-kind contributions from nine attorneys and their law firms.
According to his letter, after thoroughly researching the issue Harrell thought it was incumbent upon him to call “attention to what appear to be substantial and continuing violations of the campaign laws of North Carolina.” Harrell’s request, in the form of a letter to Director Gary Bartlett with copies sent to all five board members, was received at the board office on Thursday.
In the November 2000 election the Cooper Committee ran campaign ads about the Republican candidate, Raleigh lawyer Dan Boyce, that members of the Boyce’s law firm said were untrue. As a result, Dan Boyce and three members of his firm filed a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court against the Cooper Committee. The case, which has been going on for four years, is currently at the N. C. Court of Appeals for the second time. The legal work questioned by Harrell was work done by the nine attorneys from three law firms that have defended the Cooper Committee.
Specifically Harrell claims that corporations or business entities like limited liability partnerships (LLPs) cannot make contributions to political campaigns, and that the Cooper Committee has failed to report any in-kind legal services from the three law firms or the nine attorneys.
Harrell claims that the attorneys cannot be classified as volunteers if their law firms were paying them for their hours on the case. He also said that court filing fees, printing costs, office supplies, phone calls, and travel expenses must be accounted for.
Gene Boyce, Dan Boyce’s father and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said that no members of his firm have a campaign at this time so they have no requirement to report their work on the lawsuit to the Board of Elections.
The individual lawyers and law firms providing in-kind serves listed by Harrell were: Jim W. Phillips, David Kushner, and Henry E. Frye of Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, LLP in Greensboro; Allison Vanlaningham, James G. Exum, and Alan W. Duncan of Smith, Moore LLP in Greensboro; and Walter E. Dellinger, Matt Shores, and Pam Harris of O’Melveny & Meyers, LLP in Washington, D.C.
In addition, Harrell claimed in the letter that Cooper hired two of the above law firms to represent the state while those firms or their attorneys were providing the in-kind legal services to his campaign committee. Walter Dellinger represented the state in the congressional reapportionment case with the State of Utah. The Books, Pierce law firm represented the state in the Blue Cross conversion matter.
Reached at his home on Friday, Harrell told CJ his request to the elections board speaks for itself.
Cooper, up for reelection this year is facing Republican Joe Knott of Raleigh. Cooper’s campaign manager Steven Bryant told CJ Friday morning that he was not aware of the allegations and asked CJ to fax the document. CJ subsequently received the following statement from John R. Wallace, counsel for The Cooper Committee:
“The law is consistent on this issue and the committee has followed the law in its reporting requirements. The legal costs in this case are being paid by private insurance. The premise of the letter to the Board – that lawyers are contributing services – is wrong. This lawsuit has been going on for almost four years and it’s obvious why this issue has been raise so close to the 2004 election.”
As of Friday afternoon, election board Director Bartlett had not read Harrell’s letter. “Until I read it, all I can acknowledge is that staff and I will review, process it, and take whatever appropriate action necessary to finalize the complaint,” he said.