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I see the Mayor is getting out his signs again this year. This is a welcome sight because he deserves another term for...

Greenville Jobs Now fined for failing to submit report

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Vote signs show arrows that point towards the entrance to the Willis building during early voting hours Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017.

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By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Friday, November 3, 2017

A political group responsible for a barrage of negative campaign efforts against a Greenville mayoral candidate has been fined by the state Board of Elections for failing to submit a report detailing its operations.

The State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement mailed a notification Tuesday that it had fined Greenville Jobs Now $500 for failing to submit a 35-day report required of groups actively supporting candidates during a campaign. The group has paid for numerous ads against mayoral candidate Calvin Mercer and for more positive ads supporting mayoral candidate P.J. Connelly and a slate of hopefuls running for City Council.

The fine notification and a second letter containing a notice of non-compliance about the reporting process were addressed to the group’s treasurer, Max Joyner Jr., a Greenville businessman, former City Council member and a current member of the East Carolina University Board of Trustees.

Mercer and others have criticized the group because it is waging an anonymous campaign without reporting its funding sources or its expenditures. A spokesman for the group told The Daily Reflector last week that nonprofit organizations like Jobs Now were not required to report such details until January.

On Thursday, he referred the Reflector to Roger Knight, an attorney in Raleigh who oversees the legal requirements for the group. Knight was unavailable to comment because he was out of town, according to his assistant. 

According to the state’s notice of penalty, the group failed to file its 35-day report due on Oct. 3. The fine for not doing so is $50 a day, not-to-exceed $500.

Joanne Robertson, the campaign finance liaison for the Pitt County Board of Elections, said political groups generally are required to only submit mid-year and end-year reports. However, they are governed by the same regulations as candidates when the groups are actively involved in fundraising and advocating for candidates. Candidates must file detailed reports of revenues and expenditures.

Greenville’s elections are considered non-partisan, plurality elections, according to Robertson, meaning candidates have to submit a pre-election report, a 35-day report and a year-end report. She said based on her understanding, Greenville Jobs Now is required to do the same. 

In addition to Connelly, the group has been advocating for At-large candidate Brian Meyerhoeffer, District 1 candidate Kandie Smith, District 2 candidate Rose Glover, District 3 candidate Will Bell, District 4 candidate Darrell Hinnant and District 5 candidate William Litchfield.

Mercer said the fine against Greenville Jobs Now is further evidence of the lack of transparency he has been criticizing. 

“This anonymous super PAC has been engaged in a smear campaign to distract voters from the real simple yes or no questions,” he said. “I’ve been saying yes to Greenville’s growth and progress, while Mr. Connelly has been saying no.” 

Not-so-silent partner

According to reports submitted by candidates late last month, Mercer has outraised Connelly $61,115 to $44,287. The totals do not include money spent indirectly on Connelly’s behalf by Greenville Jobs Now.

The only expenditure report available from the group was submitted to the Board of Elections on on Oct. 27. It reported $568 spent on two orders for rack cards printed by Acculink in Greenville. It did not show what the group has been spent on numerous advertisements in newspapers and on radio stations, cable networks and internet sites throughout the election cycle.

All told, candidates for the mayoral seat and council have raised about $177,000, according to the October 35-day reporting. A majority of that funding has been spent on advertisements and campaign signs, the reports indicated. The candidates spent a total of about $23,000 on signs.

Connelly spent the majority of his funding on media advertisement, according to his reports. He spent $2,829 on newspapers, $8,772 on radio and $11,308 on cable advertisement. He also spent $4,160 for ads on Google, Facebook and other social media platforms. He spent about $7,637 on both campaign yard signs and larger road signs. 

Mercer spent $17,304 with Perry Woods Consulting for mailers and consultation. He also spent $15,174 with Marketing Matters for a variety of advertisements. He spent about $945 on newspaper advertisement, and $950 on radio advertisement. He also spent $5,322 at the Hilton for a campaign reception. He has spent $127 on Facebook ads this cycle. 

District 3 candidate Uriah Ward, spent the largest portion of his money with Acculink, which prints pamphlets and other campaign literature. Additionally, he paid $950 for mailers, $919 for campaign signs and $300 to hire one person for canvassing and get out the vote activities. 

Ward’s opponent, Will Bell, spent the largest portion of his funding, $2,745, to pay 11 people for canvassing and get out the vote activities. He spent about $677 on campaign koozies and $750 on transportation. He spent about $1,772 on campaign signs. 

Litchfield spent the largest portion of his money on yard signs and printing campaign literature from Vistaprint, costing him $1,675. He spent about $1,590 on radio advertisement. He also spent about $1,010 on food and food services for campaign events, and about $1,864 on campaign signs. 

District 4 Councilman Rick Smiley spent the largest portion of his funding on a $5,826 order for mailers through Perry Woods Consulting. He also spent $99 in advertisement through Rampant Lines, the J.H. Rose High School newspaper, and $884 on campaign signs. He paid $666 to one person for campaign canvassing and $231 to another person to do the same. 

His opponent, Darrell Hinnant spent the majority of his funds, $3,445 on campaign signs, and $1,696 for printing campaign literature. 

At-Large candidate Brian Meyerhoeffer spent the majority of his campaign expenses on media advertisement: $2,640 on radio and $1,141 on television. He spent about $3,097 on yard signs and road signs. 

His opponent, Chris Nunnally, spent $2,062 on campaign signs, as well as about $500 on campaign literature, and $331 on Facebook advertisement. 

District 1 candidate Kandie Smith spent $150 at a cancer fundraiser, $300 on a Daily Drum Newspaper advertisement and $176 in United States Postal Office fees for a post office box. Her opponent, Micah Lockhart, has been largely absent from campaign.

District 5 candidate Tom Best, District 4 candidate J.R. Reddick and mayoral candidates Ernest Reeves and Curtis Pulley are exempt from filing reports because they signed documents that they would not raise or spend more than $1,000.

Contact Seth Gulledge at sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579

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