Politics & Government

Critics question a $25,000 donation tied to re-election of Mecklenburg’s GOP chairman

Mecklenburg GOP celebrates impending RNC announcement

The Mecklenburg County Republican Party hosts a Summer Celebration in anticipation of Charlotte being awarded the 2020 Republican National Convention.
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The Mecklenburg County Republican Party hosts a Summer Celebration in anticipation of Charlotte being awarded the 2020 Republican National Convention.

Before Mecklenburg County Republicans voted for a party chairman Saturday, one delegate made a surprising offer:

Vote for his candidate, David Longo told fellow convention delegates, and he would donate $25,000 to the party, as well as free office space.

Longo is the founder of CBI, a supplier of office furnishings, and a major donor to Republican candidates.

He nominated incumbent Chair Chris Turner, who went on to win re-election over challenger John Powell. The $25,000 contribution is among the highest ever to the party.

Delegates on the losing side questioned the timing of Longo’s offer as well as the conditions he placed on it.

“The action struck me as clearly inappropriate, it felt like somebody trying to buy votes,” former Sen. Jeff Tarte, who nominated Powell, told the Observer. “At a minimum it’s very disturbing.”

Longo could not be reached Monday. Turner, who has worked for CBI since November, called the donation of a headquarters “100 percent ethical” and a way for the party to save money.

“The financial contribution to the party in no way, shape or form influenced the outcome of the local party races,” Turner said Monday. “(It’s) completely above board for an individual to make a donation based on who’s in the leadership role. This happens in business, politics and non-profits every single day. I do not shy way from this donation and am excited to have it.”

Both sides say the voting among the 250-plus delegates was not close. But Powell said he believes the offer “definitely influenced on the voting of the delegates.”

Turner disagrees. He said Tarte acknowledged Saturday that virtually all the delegates arrived knowing who they would vote for, before Longo even made his offer. On Monday, Tarte said “there’s no way to know” if the offer swayed votes.

The Mecklenburg County Republican Party hosts a Summer Celebration in anticipation of Charlotte being awarded the 2020 Republican National Convention.

Because it’s a party vote, party rules govern. And Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the state GOP, said no rules were violated.

“As we are neutral in inter-party contests, I can’t comment specifically on this headquarters matter,” he said in an email. “(But) in general when donors are investing resources in political causes, they are ultimately investing in the person asking (for) the money. Donors are never disinterested in what will happen with their investments and those managing them.”

Longo is a major supporter of Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and has donated to other Republicans. In 2016 he gave $50,000 to Truth and Prosperity, a super PAC that supports Forest, according to the State Board of Elections.

In 2017, WRAL reported that Longo headed a group called the North Carolina Promotion and Development Fund that furnished Forest with his own TV studio. A Forest spokesman said the private donation was designed to save taxpayers money.

Larry Shaheen, chairman of Mecklenburg’s Young Republicans, said Turner should be credited with recruiting a businessman to help the party.

“I understand there are some people with a hard feeling about the election, but this is counterproductive,” Shaheen said. “This does nothing to help elect Republicans.”

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