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N Carolina Democrats protest call, GOP alleges intimidation

February 24, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina Democratic Party leader has asked the state to investigate her Republican counterpart, alleging he made an automated phone call that violates the law.

State GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse called the complaint bogus. On Friday, he accused political rivals — including Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein — of “rank intimidation” to discourage candidate recruitment days before the filing deadline.

Stein spokeswoman Laura Brewer said the state Department of Justice’s consumer protection division is simply following standard practice by contacting the subject of a complaint, and the department has no opinion right now whether telephone solicitation laws were violated.

“There is no merit to any of these hysterical claims” by Woodhouse, Brewer said in an email.

The Feb. 19 complaint by Democratic Party Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds says Woodhouse’s call solicited candidates for a state House district without naming the call sponsor and other information. Reynolds wrote that an audio file of the call is available.

Woodhouse, holding a news conference at state GOP headquarters with the party’s general counsel, said “we have no doubt that everything we’ve done is 100 percent in compliance with every aspect of the law.”

Woodhouse declined to say if he made the recorded call identified, adding he’s made a lot of “robocalls” over the years and wouldn’t disclose GOP strategies. But Tom Stark, the state GOP attorney, said the telephone solicitation law didn’t apply in this case because “this is not telephone solicitation.”

“This is communication between the party and its members.”

Candidate filing for legislative and congressional races this year ends Wednesday.

Woodhouse said the complaint documents are “a shocking and chilling attempt at intimidation of people we have already gotten to run for office and the ones we are continuing to encourage to do so.”

Without addressing the current case, Brewer said the law does exempt political parties from the state’s robocall prohibition, but those callers still must clearly identify their names, contact information and nature of the call.

Woodhouse said the party would not comply with the Department of Justice’s request to respond and that a federal civil and voting rights complaint would be filed against the state Democratic Party and Stein. Later, Stark said the GOP would respond to the request by saying the accusations are without merit, and downplayed the immediacy of any federal litigation.

Reynolds stood her ground later Friday, saying Woodhouse and the Republican Party “should apologize for their blatant disregard of state law and be fined for every improper call that was placed.”

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