Law firm paid by McCrory campaign prepared complaints against NY governor

Law firm paid by McCrory campaign prepared complaints against NY governor
McCrory and Orr at a ConnectNC event (Source: WBTV/File)
McCrory and Orr at a ConnectNC event (Source: WBTV/File)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A law firm paid by Governor Pat McCrory's campaign was involved in preparing a complaint against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state's economic development agency, Empire State Development.

Former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr filed a federal Hatch Act complaint and a complaint with the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics against Cuomo and the economic development agency over ads run in North Carolina in the wake of the passage of House Bill 2 urging businesses to move to New York.

The ads touted New York as an inclusive state.

Orr's complaint accused Cuomo and the economic development agency of violating state and federal law by using public funds to pay for an ad that crossed the line from economic development into political advocacy.

"Most disturbing, is the fact that Empire State Development advertisements mention North Carolina and its leadership in a transparent attempt to criticize, interfere, and affect the impending North Carolina Elections," Orr's state ethics complaint said. "These advertisements do so by highlighting issues that are currently matters of intense public debate as the state approaches its upcoming general elections for statewide offices including that of Governor and statewide legislative offices."

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Orr said he did not file his complaint in connection with McCrory's administration or re-election campaign.

"Mr. Orr, who said in an interview that he isn't affiliated with the North Carolina Governor's administration or campaign but has done legal work for the state, has filed a similar complaint with New York's Joint Commission on Public Ethics," the Wall Street Journal article said.

But metadata associated with the federal Hatch Act complaint posted as part of an article by the Albany Times Union about the complaints shows the document was prepared by an attorney at the law firm paid by McCrory's campaign during the 2015-2016 election cycle.

According to the document's metadata, the PDF document was prepared by Gabriela Fallon, an associate at the law firm Holtzman, Vogel, Josefiak, Torchinsky, PLLC.

Campaign finance records submitted to the North Carolina State Board of Elections by the McCrory campaign show the small, Washington, D.C. based firm that specializes in election law and other political issues, has been paid more than $60,000 this election cycle.

The firm also did work for the Connect NC Committee, which promoted the Connect NC bond earlier this year. Orr was a co-chairman of the committee.

An On Your Side Investigation found McCrory promoted the bond at official state events. State law prevents public money from being used to promote political campaigns or to advocate for or against bond referendum.

At the time of our investigation this spring, the Governor's staff dismissed the comments as 'harmless' when asked by On Your Side Investigates to respond to the remarks caught on camera.

"WBTV should stop trying to twist harmless comments into a reckless, misleading narrative that disregards the governor's First Amendment rights," spokesman Graham Wilson said.

In an email Wednesday, Orr reiterated that he filed the complaints on his own volition, independent of McCrory's campaign. He said he was not aware that McCrory's campaign had paid the law firm this election cycle.

"Gabriella and Jason both of whom are knowledgable (sic) attorneys in the field did assist me in filing the two complaints," Orr said. "I filed them on my own volition and personally signed both complaints because I thought the ads crossed the line in what was appropriate for a government entity to do both from an economic development standpoint and from an interference using public money in the political process."

A spokesman for McCrory's campaign also did not return an email seeking comment by press time.

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