Here’s a recipe for creating a legal mess out of a perfectly normal agreement between a neo-Confederate group and a public university: Start by negotiating in total secrecy. Then, try to deny a lawyer’s right to share the neo-Confederate group’s letter. And for good measure, add possible violations of federal tax laws, soliciting illegal political donations, and operating an unauthorized political action committee.

Multiple members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans have come forward, saying the group’s “mechanized calvary,” aka motorcycle group, has not tracked membership fees or funds—instead having new inductees pay a $100 fee in cash or a check made out to the former calvary captain rather than the group itself, The Daily Tar Heel reported on Friday. 

(Sidenote: The DTH has been killing this story.)

According to a database of SCV members given to the DTH, there were more than 400 members of this calvary, which means the group has collected more than $45,000 in 2019. (The INDY has obtained the same database but has not independently verified its contents.) This money, the DTH reports, was being sent directly to calvary captain Bill Starnes, the former calvary captain and the SCV’s legislative director.

Starnes, in turn, used that money for the NC Heritage PAC, which the SCV started in 2016. 

That’s all kinds of illegal. 

As the DTH reports: 

The NC Heritage PAC was certified by the N.C. State Board of Elections in 2016. In the PAC’s statement of organization, it listed “North Carolina Division Sons of Confederate Veterans” as its connected organization. Both of its designated treasurers were active SCV members.

John Wallace, former assistant attorney general in the N.C. Department of Justice’s antitrust division, told the DTH that under no circumstances is a 501(c)(3) organization legally permitted to create and operate an active PAC.

“The SCV misrepresented their eligibility to serve as a sponsoring organization for the purportedly affiliated committee,” Wallace said. “Misrepresenting its qualification to the State Board staff results in violations both of state law and the C3 status of SCV. Further, SCV has accepted contribution as deductible when in fact such contributions should not be deductible by their donors, given the political activity of SCV.”

That PAC poured money into political campaigns for legislative Republicans. The legislative Republicans then appointed the Board of Governors. The Board of Governors then handed the SCV $2.5 million and a Civil War Participation Trophy. 


Read the DTH’s whole report. This is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Contact digital content manager Sara Pequeño at Disclosure: She writer was a former staff member of The Daily Tar Heel.

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