Feb 24, 2013 No Comments ›› Jake Hammer
Excerpted from THE BLAZE: North Carolina’s newly elected Republican governor Pat McCrory hasn’t been in office for even two months, and already progressive groups and their allies within North Carolina’s state Democratic party have the long knives out. That is, if a leaked memo from the progressive organization Blueprint North Carolina is to be believed. The controversial memo was first reported on by the Charlotte Observer this past Friday. The Observer reported:
A group that sent out a memo with tips on how to attack Gov. Pat McCrory and other Republican leaders exercised “bad judgment” that could jeopardize its funding, the director of a foundation that finances the group said Friday.[...]
The memo was forwarded by Stephanie Bass, then Bluprint’s communications director, to the group’s nonprofit allies. The Observer obtained a copy.
Describing the control Republicans hold on North Carolina state government, it gave progressives a list of recommendations. Among them:
• “Crippling their leaders (McCrory, Tillis, Berger etc.).”
• “Eviscerate the leadership and weaken their ability to govern.”
• “Pressure McCrory at every public event.”
• “Slam him when he contradicts his promises.”
• “Private investigators and investigative reporting, especially in the executive branch…”
Those were among the talking points and action steps in a memo forwarded by Blueprint North Carolina, a partnership of advocacy and policy groups based in Raleigh.
The memo was emailed to groups last week with a warning: “It is CONFIDENTIAL to Blueprint, so please be careful – share with your boards and appropriate staff but not the whole world.”
Since the original story, the memo has begun to amass press coverage and possibly become a minor scandal in North Carolina politics. WRAL-TV Raleigh has posted an exhaustive analysis of the various different reactions to the memo (most recently updated Saturday), as well as a link to the text of the memo itself.
Conservatives, naturally, have reacted with outrage, while progressives have either distanced themselves or (in the case of Blueprint NC) defended the memo by claiming it is really an out-of-context mish-mash of various unrelated documents, cobbled together to make them look bad. Blueprint NC’s director, Sean Kosofsky, called the memo a “James O’Keefe-style splicing of two radially different things” in an interview with WRAL-TV Raleigh.
Meanwhile, Republican officials have blasted progressives for their hypocrisy in attacking conservative organizations (like the North Carolina based Civitas Institute) for their close proximity to power, when progressive groups like Blueprint NC are (according to them) literally putting words in the mouths of Democratic leadership. They point (among other things) to certain poll-tested phrases in the memo, which they argue track (in some cases verbatim) with phrases from the actual Democratic response to Governor McCrory’s state-of-the-State address, delivered by State Rep. Larry Hall of Durham this month.
So what is the truth behind the memo? Is it only a deceptively assembled leak designed to discredit political opponents, or does the evidence show something more disconcerting? Is there evidence of collaboration between groups like Blueprint NC and North Carolina’s Democratic leadership, and if so, how strong is that evidence? To answer these questions, we took a look at the memo itself, and compared its contents to the relevant speech by Rep. Hall.
To begin with, one has to note the contents of the leaked memo. It consists of a three page strategy memo, a poll, several slides showing successful poll-tested language, a cover email introducing the poll (and warning staffers that it is “CONFIDENTIAL to Blueprint, so please be careful”), and a version of the speech by Rep. Hall which tracks almost perfectly with the actual speech (one or two different words are substituted in places, but without changing the meaning of any sentence). The poll was taken between January 29 and February 2nd. The email introducing the poll and the slides is dated February 15. Neither the speech nor the strategy memo have any dates written on them. While the cover email clearly comes from a staffer at Blueprint NC, the strategy memo makes no reference to the name of the organization that drafted it. Moreover, the strategy memo includes the words “DRAFT: NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION” at the top of every page, suggesting it is only a preliminary version of an unknown finished product.
This draft status may explain why the strategy memo section contains the most controversial language. For instance:
Nevertheless, there is no direct evidence to link Blueprint NC itself to the strategy memo section of the larger leak, other than its inclusion with the other documents. Blueprint NC claims that the strategy memo is a document from an old planning retreat by progressive groups, and this explanation is consistent with the relatively unofficial and cobbled together nature of the leak, as though it was drawn from a pile of documents handed out to conference participants. However, the source behind the leak, according to WRAL-TV Raleigh, was an attendant at this retreat, which was apparently organized by Blueprint NC. This does not mean that the memo was authored by Blueprint NC, but it does suggest that they may have approved of its contents prior to its being handed out.