By: Rick Mercier
Candidate For Johnston County School Board
Organizational documents submitted belatedly to the N.C. State Board of Elections indicate that a political action committee behind a deceptive endorsement card distributed at polling places on primary Election Day in Johnston County is linked to a local homebuilder and to Republican Party operatives with connections to PACs and high-profile political campaigns across the country.
The documents connect the PAC called Citizens for the Betterment of Johnston County to Alfredo Rodriguez, founder and president of the Republican-linked Dyce Communications, and to Thomas C. Datwyler, a Washington, D.C.-based operative who, according to campaign finance records available on opensecrets.org, has been treasurer for dozens of PACs and campaigns nationwide.
The documents submitted to the state board list 10920 Cleveland Road, Suite 100, as the address of the PAC. That is also the address for Gray Wolf Homes, whose website says it has built developments “in Johnston County, Wake County and several other surrounding areas.”
The endorsement card at the center of an Election Day controversy, titled “Voter Guide for Johnston County” with a footer reading “Vote for These Great Conservative Leaders!”, was handed out by temp laborers at polling places around the county on March 3.
The card said it was paid for by Citizens for the Betterment of Johnston County. However, media outlets reported that no such PAC was registered with the State Board of Elections under that name as of March 3. That would appear to make its primary Election Day activities illegal.
The card endorsed numerous Republican candidates for statewide and countywide offices who were on the March 3 primary ballot. One of the candidates endorsed on the card, Fred Smith, defeated his primary opponent, Michelle Pace Davis, by only 50 votes in a race for District 1 county commissioner. Official results released on March 13 show that Davis had bested Smith during early voting, but Smith overtook her with the voting on March 3, when the endorsement cards were distributed to voters.
Johnny Hill of Clayton filed a formal protest with the county Board of Elections on March 6 requesting a new District 1 commissioners election be held. No action has been taken yet on that protest.
Citizens for the Betterment of Johnston County registered with the state board a week after the election – and even then, its submission was incomplete. Organizational and campaign finance documents available on the state board’s website indicate that the PAC submitted documents to the board on March 10 and received a confirmation email from the board the next day. In that confirmation email, however, the state board said the PAC still had not filed several documents required to complete its organizational reporting.
Rodriguez, who identifies himself as founder and president of Dyce Communications on his LinkedIn account, submitted the paperwork to the state board. Some of his communications with the board were from a Dyce Communications email account. Other communications were faxes sent on March 10 from a UPS Store with a 704 area code, which is primarily for the Charlotte area. Dyce Communications has an office in Charlotte.
The paperwork submitted with the state board and also with the IRS have discrepancies over who is the treasurer of the PAC. Rodriguez is listed on some documents, but Datwyler is listed on the state’s Registered Committee Independent Expenditures Report as the treasurer. Datwyler was also the recipient of the IRS letter assigning the PAC an Employer Identification Number.
According to the IRS letter, Datwyler has an address of 499 S. Capitol St. SW in Washington. Opensecrets.org and media reports name him as treasurer of numerous PACs around the nation – some high powered and well funded – including the 1820 PAC backing Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. That PAC has raised over $1.5 million in this election cycle.
The 1820 PAC’s involvement in Collins’ Senate race has resulted so far in two complaints filed with the Federal Election Commission – one involving an allegation of an illegal in-kind contribution of a television ad valued at nearly $300,000, the other related to a mysterious $150,000 contribution the PAC received from a company in Hawaii. According the Bangor Daily News, the FEC is unlikely to rule on the complaints before November.
In 2013, a Tom Datwyler was officially reprimanded by the state of Minnesota for activities related to an organization called Count Them All Properly, which was established to handle legal fees stemming from the state’s 2010 gubernatorial recount.
Datwyler has served as comptroller for Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign and is listed on an IRS document as the contact for the George Papadopoulos Exploratory Committee. Papadopoulos, who went to jail for lying to FBI investigators in the Russia probe, lost his bid for a congressional seat in California in the March 3 primary.
There will be updates to this developing story as warranted.