GREENSBORO, N.C. - You've heard the phrase: I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine. In politics that can mean business men and women give candidates donations in returns for favors.
Campaign finance reports are supposed to increase transparency and prevent problems. But 2 Wants To Know found a big loophole is letting donors hide who they are when giving to North Carolina candidates.
Say you or your company want to give a politician a big check - like $50,000. But you don't want your name tied to the cash for all the world to see. To get around that, you could spend $200 to create a limited liability company or LLC. Legally, the LLC can give the donation under its name. So your name's not on the check. You can hide behind the LLC. And some campaign finance experts say these LLCs create a huge risk of abuse.
"If you don't know who's giving the money, it's very hard to figure out if somebody is doing favors for a donor," said Viveca Novack of the Center For Responsive Politics.
To see how often donors use LLCs, 2 Wants To Know looked at the biggest race in our state -Senator Kay Hagan versus Speaker Thom Tillis. Only one LLC from our area donated towards either candidate. LMD Properties of Greensboro donated $50,000 to the PAC American Crossroads. American Crossroads supports Tillis. We want to stress - we've found no evidence of any wrong doing by this company or Tillis. None. But look at what we had to do to track down who really is behind the donation made by LMD Properties.
Again all the campaign report had was the company name. So we pulled the business license filed with the North Carolina Secretary of State. There's a phone number. We tried calling. Repeatedly. No one got back to us. So we went further down the business license to the address. 2 Wants To Know showed up in person to find New Breed Logistics.
This is where your wallet gets involved. New Breed is a federal contractor. Records obtained by 2 Wants to Know show New Breed has over $150 million in federal contracts.
A New Breed spokesperson said the LLC has no relation to LMD Properties. But the LMD'S business license says the company's manager is Louis Dejoy. Turns out Dejoy- he's the New Breed CEO too.
We tried calling him personally, but haven't heard back. We've also reached out to Speaker Tillis. We haven't heard back yet. But again there appears to be no evidence of any illegal kickbacks or anything like that. These are just the facts we've uncovered.
What can be done to make those donation reports more clear? Well it's actually up the lawmakers getting these funds... to implement reporting reform. Again we haven't heard from Tillis yet. But Senator Hagan wrote WFMY News 2:
"North Carolinians deserve a campaign finance system that is transparent and just, and information on who is funding political advocacy should be readily available to the public so voters can make fully informed decisions when they head to the ballot box. I'm working to shed light on campaign finance in the Senate and I was an original cosponsor of the DISCLOSE Act, which would bring accountability back to our elections and ensure the public can easily follow the money trail in politics. I've also cosponsored a Constitutional amendment that would reign in out-of-control spending on political campaigns, much of which is coming from shadowy outside special interests that don't disclose their donors. Transparency is key to ensuring North Carolina voters are calling the shots in our elections, not shadowy outside groups, and I'll continue working to bring accountability back to the system," she said.
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