Campaign finance reports reveal notable imbalance in Forsyth DA’s career

Paid campaign accountants, state and local election board clerks, people who have to, plus political junkies, good government types, and a few others with too much time on their hands often thumb through the finance reports of campaign.

They’re deadly boring, and when filed properly (a very big variable), they include page after page of donor names and check amounts written by people rich enough to throw their money to the wind.

And those reports, required by state candidate law, don’t include so-called “dark” money raised (and spent) by shadow political action committees.

Still, reading the reports (or better yet, having someone else do it for you) can help cast a more informed vote.

Namely: The paperwork filed in arguably the most competitive local race — retired district judge Denise Hartsfield trying to unseat incumbent district attorney Jim O’Neill — shows a striking imbalance.

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print money

The money raised (and spent) on high-profile federal and state races is obscene. The wrong decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States made it so.

The most infamous would be the ruling by Citizens United, which in 2010 codified a twisted logic that money equals speech and corporations equal people, ensuring for the foreseeable future that the wealthy control the levers of power.

In North Carolina, if you don’t watch TV or listen to commercial radio, the most expensive would be the race to win the retirement of US Senator Richard Burr, a profiteer on the pandemic and the face of renewed interest in capping stocks. offices by elected officials.

According to, that race through early August was the 10th most expensive in the country with some $31.7 million raised.

That figure includes money raised by Republican Ted Budd and Democrat Cheri Beasley, as well as money raised by candidates who lost in the primaries. Does not include dark money or what has been raised since then.

But let’s be realistic. Obscene as it sounds, $31.7 million might as well be pink and yellow Monopoly bills for voters who live paycheck to paycheck.

For my money, the most interesting report, with the potential to make a significant difference, involves the Forsyth County District Attorney race.

denise hartfield


John Hinton, Diary

The facts, as reported by Friends of Jim O’Neill and Hartsfield for the district attorney to the State Board of Elections in late June, the most recent available, include:

Jim O'Neill


O’Neill’s campaign submitted 20 pages of itemized receipts showing the incumbent Republican started the second quarter with a starting balance of $184,148 and a total of $250,600 for this election cycle.

His campaign raised $57,300 in the second quarter, much of it through maximum individual contributions of $5,600, and he had $237,173 left over as of June 30.

The Hartsfield campaign, by comparison, reported 92 donations in generally smaller amounts.

The Democrat’s report showed a second quarter opening balance of $11,495 and total receipts of $34,566 for this election cycle.

Cash on hand at the end of the quarter, the bottom line, was reported at $22,232.

more to come

So far, this is only in early October, the imbalance is showing mainly in terms of advertising.

You may have seen that O’Neill has been on television since the beginning and often touts the work of the district attorney against domestic violence.

An anonymous victim fills the screen and extols the conviction rate obtained by the bureau. The truth of the matter is, hammering away at convicted domestic abusers.

Going after violent criminals is much more important than, say, empty support for a youth curfew. A quarter of a million buys a lot of television time.

Oh, and perhaps more insidiously, dark money in recent days has managed to find its way into even this local race.

A YouTube ad, sponsored by a group calling itself the Defend US political action committee, illuminates Hartsfield for two well-documented missteps: a suspension for cutting corners in handling traffic tickets and approving release in 2010. of an accused domestic abuser, a Wake Forest basketball player, thereby sparing him a mandatory 24-hour cooling-off period.

The other side of the coin for Hartsfield is that $34,566 could buy some direct mail, yard signs intended to clutter right-of-ways for the next month and possibly social media ads as well.

If left-leaning PACs care, they might not, and they’re smart enough, they could hit YouTube with clips of O’Neill fully embracing former President Trump in an over-the-top 2020 performance at a Smith Reynolds Airport rally .

Will at least a 10-to-1 advantage in available cash, plus the recent appearance of attack ads with the slogan “not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee” make a difference in a county with 102,610 registered Democrats, 72,739 Republicans and 90,732 unaffiliated voters?



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