North Carolina, Republican political sugar daddy Art Pope and his civitas Institute and far-right “think tank” have been pulled into a lawsuit targeting North Carolina’s restrictive new voting law which the GOP messages as “Voter ID”, but others call “voter supression” due to the fact that only a tiny part of it concerns having to produce an ID to vote. Pope, himself, now serves as the North Carolina budget director under Governor Pat McCrory.
According to the letter sent to Pope’s Civitas by an attorney representing the NCNAACP and an individual, 90 year-old voter:
“I am contacting you to inform you that your organization may be requested to produce certain documents in your possession that are relevant to these issues,” says the letter to Civitas from attorney Adam Stein with the Chapel Hill, N.C. office of Tin Fulton Walker & Owen. It continues:
In connection with this lawsuit, please preserve — and do not destroy, conceal, alter, and/or make inaccessible — any paper or electronic files, other electronically stored information or data generated by and/or stored on your computer systems, portable electronic devices (e.g., Blackberrys, iPhones, pagers, etc.) and storage media (e.g., hard disks, USB drives, CDs, DVDs, floppy disks, backup tapes, etc.) that relate in any way to H.B. 589 or any other legislation concerning North Carolina’s elections laws that was proposed or enacted during the 2013-2014 session (regular or special) of the North Carolina General Assembly. This obligation includes, but is not limited to, any documents, files, and/or communications from or to the Civitas Institute relating to its efforts to support or oppose the enactment of any legislation concerning North Carolina’s elections laws that was proposed or enacted during the 2013-2014 session of the North Carolina General Assembly. This preservation obligation includes, without limitation, paper documents; email and other electronic communications; word processing documents; spreadsheets; presentation slides; databases; calendars and calendar entries; diaries; meeting notes; telephone logs; contact manager information; Internet usage files; offline storage for information stored on removable media; information contained on laptops or other portable devices; and network access information.”
Pope’s influence network, anchored by the Civitas Institute, played a major role in the organized effort to advance the North Carolina’s new voting restrictions. Civitas used its publications to amplify fears of voter fraud and press the cause for photo ID, despite a lack of evidence that the kind of fraud prevented by such laws is not a problem in North Carolina. It gave a platform to the Voter Integrity Project of North Carolina, a tea party-connected group that has challenged registrations of thousands of voters, almost all of whom were found to have been properly registered. VIPNC also pushed false stories of voter fraud in order to try to create the impression that there is wide spread voter fraud in North Carolina in spite of the the fact that there is not.
In the case of Montravias King a student at North Carolina’s historically black Elizabeth City State University, whom the local GOP chairman was trying to keep from running for city council, Civitas provided legal “advice” to Richard “Pete” Gilbert the GOP chairman. Gilbert showed up at the hearing accompanied by Susan Myrick, an elections analyst with Civitas. (Note: This is a different person than former Congressperson Sue Myrick of North Carolina.) In addition, Civitas Action — the 501(c)(4) “social welfare” sister group to the Civitas Institute, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit — is among the political groups connected to Pope that provided support to legislative candidates who went on to play important roles in the passage of new voting restrictions.
Civitas is now using the letter for fundraising purposes. A mass email sent out Tuesday by Civitas President Francis X. De Luca begins, “First the NSA — then the IRS — now its [sic] William Barber, the NAACP and its lawyers who want to snoop on Civitas!” Likening itself to “David fighting Goliath,” Civitas asks its supporters to make a donation to help pay its legal bills. The letter includes a mugshot of N.C. NAACP President Rev. William Barber over which has been superimposed the words, “Give me your diaries.”
Civitas apparently plans to fight any legal bid to make it turn over documents: Its fundraising letter closes with a postscript that says, “With your support we can stand up to Barber and the NAACP and keep their grubby hands off our records.”