The North Carolina State Board of Elections has launched formal investigations into two high-profile Republican figures and one Republican dark-money group in connection with the 2022 election. Last week, Carolina Forward filed two formal complaints uncovering illegally unreported campaign support during the 2022 election cycle:
- The first regards E.C. Sykes, the 2022 Republican nominee for State Senate District 18, who accepted and did not report communications training provided to him by the far-right hate group Alliance Defending Freedom.
- The second regards former Republican Congressman Mark Walker’s “Win the Courts” organization, which provided material support to several Republican candidates for the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals which was never reported.
Both cases involve material campaign support provided to Republican candidates that was never reported, as is legally required; likely exceeded the maximum allowable contribution limit; and, particularly in Mark Walker’s “Win the Courts” case, represent illegal coordination between a dark-money group and candidates for office.
E.C. Sykes and “Alliance Defending Freedom”
E.C. Sykes is a multimillionaire investor, former businessman, and far-right Christian fundamentalist who ran for North Carolina’s State Senate District 18 in Wake and Granville counties. Sykes spent approximately a quarter of a million dollars of his own considerable wealth on his ultimately unsuccessful campaign, which he lost to Democrat Mary Wills Bode by a larger-than-expected 5.5 points.
Among Sykes’ liabilities as a candidate was his dubious residency in the district and his total opposition to abortion, which he said “should be outlawed in all circumstances” – even in cases of rape, incest, or to save a woman’s life. While this is a highly unpopular position, Sykes nevertheless received strong support from a national Christian fundamentalist organization called the “Alliance Defending Freedom” (or ADF). The ADF is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and supports criminalizing homosexuality, as well as the forced sterilization of transgender people.
E.C. Sykes was happy to ally with the ADF. Specifically, the ADF provided personal media training for Sykes to better equip him to speak to “the abortion issue,” as Sykes himself boasts about:
Media training is a permissible form of in-kind material campaign support, so long as its value does not exceed the maximum allowable contribution limit ($5,600 in 2022). Like all campaign contributions, it must also be reported. Sykes did not report that assistance, however. In doing so, Sykes broke North Carolina election law.
Mark Walker and “Win the Courts”
Republican former Congressman and failed U.S. Senate hopeful Mark Walker unveiled a project called “Win the Courts” in mid-2022. As its name implies, “Win the Courts” was dedicated to assisting Republican candidates in elections for the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.
“Win the Courts” was organized as an independent expenditure committee (also known as a “dark money” group). One of its key activities was a colorful bus, pictured here, emblazoned with the images and names of Republican judicial candidates. The bus was a prominent prop at many Republican events, and even transported several Republican judicial candidates themselves on several occasions. “Win the Courts” moreover organized a large candidate event in Greensboro, pictures of which are prominently displayed on their website.
In doing so, Mark Walker and “Win the Courts” broke North Carolina election laws in a number of ways. It provided material campaign logistical support to several candidates, none of which was ever reported; it obviously coordinated closely with the Republican candidates it was organized to promote, which is explicitly prohibited for independent expenditure groups; and the “Win the Courts” financial accounting that it does disclose does not add up.
All parties await further action by the State Board of Elections.