List Of Donors To Political Action Committee That Distributed Controversial Voter Guide Released

A political action committee (PAC), whose voter guide is at the center of a formal election protest that will be heard Tuesday by the Johnston County Board of Elections, has disclosed a list of individuals and businesses who donated money to their organization.

Citizens for the Betterment of Johnston County distributed a flyer at election precincts across Johnston County on the day of the March 2020 Primary.  A protest filed by Johnny Hill contends the flyer was nothing more than a “fake voter guide” and in his opinion likely swayed the outcome of the District 1 Republican county commission primary between Michelle Pace Davis and Fred Smith.  Mr. Smith won by 52 votes in a race where 19,172 votes were cast countywide.

The NC Board of Elections has not said if the PAC or the voter guide is the focus of an investigation by their agency.  They are prohibited from publicly commenting on any possible investigations they may have underway.

Last Thursday, the political action committee filed their Second Quarter Report listing their expenditures and contributors.

According to the July 9, 2020 report, the list of donors includes Keith Brinson, President of Brinson Holdings, LLC of Princeton. He contributed $700.  Richard Childrey of Smithfield, the former president of the Smithfield Selma Chamber of Commerce, donated $1,000.

Grey Wolf Development LLC in Clayton gave $5,000 to Citizens for the Betterment of Johnston County.  Wade Corbett is the registered agent and managing member for the company, according to filings with the NC Secretary of State.

Reid Smith with Reid Smith Company of Clayton made a $1,500 individual contribution according to the report.  He is the son of Fred Smith who won the primary over Michelle Pace Davis.

Eugene Jackson of Smithfield made a $1,000 individual contribution to the PAC.  He is the father of former county commission candidate Lee Jackson, whose name also appeared on the voter guide.  Jackson lost his primary bid to the incumbent.

Carla Withrow of Smithfield made a $1,000 donation to the political action committee. The report lists Ms. Withrow as principal at South Smithfield Elementary School. However, Johnston County Public Schools confirmed she has been the Executive Director of Human Resources at the Central Office since July 1, 2017.  She has not been at South Smithfield Primary since March 2016.

Altogether, Citizens for the Betterment of Johnston County took in $10,250 in contributions according to the public documents.  They listed $9,571.38 in expenditures and $75 in bank charges. $603.62 was on hand at the end of the reporting period.

The major expenditures of the PAC include $4,000 for the design and printing of the voter guides and more than $3,400 to a temporary agency where individuals were reportedly hired to hand out the guides at polling precincts.

Formal Protest
On June 11, 2020, the Johnston County Board of Elections held a preliminary hearing on the election protest filed by Mr. Hill. The board voted unanimously to move forward with a formal hearing. The formal hearing was originally scheduled for June 24th but due to two board members having health-related issues, the meeting was postponed until July 14th at 10:00am at the Johnston County Agricultural Center on Highway 210.   That location was chosen because it has a large meeting area where social distancing can be maintained.

If the county board of elections rules Tuesday in favor of the voter guide protest, the complaint will be forward to the NC Board of Elections in Raleigh. The state board will then decide if there is enough evidence to call for a new District 1 primary.