The real back story on the Parker / state Dems brouhaha: Tax dollars to politicos?
Players in Democratic politics are still scratching their heads over how embattled state Democrat Party chairman David Parker escaped that lynch mob in Greensboro yesterday. In the wake of the Parmley fiasco, and that disastrous press conference, how could ANYONE remotely connected to the debacle at Goodwin House hold onto their job?
Well, N&O newshound John Frank may have hit on the key to Parker’s survival of Saturday’s vote on his resignation:
The way David Parker and his loyalists hoodwinked the state Democratic Party on Saturday left many political observers scratching their heads. The how-did-this-happen question is deftly explored in Rob Christensen’s piece today, with some activists saying Parker schemed the rules to make it happen.
But here’s more on the why-this-happened question. And it really boils down to the driving force in all political stories: money.
To hear Democratic activists tell it, Parker is their pimp. Here’s how they say it works: Parker promised the party’s district chairs taxpayer money this election season, even though others wanted to spend it differently. So without him as chairman, local party activists weren’t guaranteed to get their money — a $1 million pot of state tax dollars split among them for get-out-the-vote operations, often without much scrutiny as to how it is spent.
N.C. political parties receive this money when taxpayers check a box to give $3 from state tax dollars to the political party of their choice. (Oddly enough, the person at the party who describes this best is the staffer whose firing started whole controversy.)
“While couched in terms of a fake sexual-harassment ‘scandal’ where no sex occurred, the ulterior motive is to get rid of Parker, who has insisted that tax checkoff funds be distributed fairly, statewide,” states a memo to Democrats included in an email newsletter from Gene Messick before Saturday’s vote. “Replacing Parker with a puppet chair will give them more access to those funds, which, as top dogs Capitol candidates in the state, they think they should have.”
Democratic executive committee member Bill Franklin, who suggested keeping Parker at the helm, said in an email to activists that the party’s district chairs controlled the funds but top party leaders worked to change state law to weaken that power. Parker pledged to return order and make sure the district chairs get the money — thus, endearing himself to the activists.
“When lots of money came in from contributions … party workers, pried the tax checkoff money from the hands of the governor, electeds and others and gave a portion of it to the districts to give to counties in 2010 to get out the vote,” Franklin explained in the email obtained by The News & Observer. “After 2010, regular (campaign) contributions stopped flowing in to candidates and party, going instead to Republicans, super PACs and other places. Some candidates and incumbents, perhaps like (Elaine) Marshall, who lost her Senate race, felt checkoff was their money. There was some legislative legerdemain by some well known people who tried to reverse things, but it did not work, thanks to David Parker, who helped the district chairs (before he was chair).
“The tax checkoff money this year is potentially $1.3 million, and Marshall and her friends have their eyes on it. To do that, they have to get rid of Parker – and with the convention coming to Charlotte, the spin, “We cannot do this to the President” provides a ready excuse for the suckers.”
Whether these activists theories (conspiratorial or not) are accurate, they won the day, protecting their cash by keeping Parker at the helm. But at what point does Parker’s chairmanship cost the entire Democratic Party?