North Carolina candidate paid $428k to consulting firm linked to alleged ballot tampering
In North Carolina’s 9th District, an alleged election tampering scheme casted doubt on the results of November’s election.
Leslie McCrae Dowless, an independent contractor for Red Dome Group, allegedly hired people to illegally collect absentee ballots, according to The Charlotte Observer.
Mark Harris, the Republican candidate who beat Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes, paid Red Dome Group $428,911 for campaign consulting and services, the second-most he spent on an individual consultant, through Sept. 30. His highest-paid consultant was OnMessage, Inc. at $835,426.
Dowless allegedly helped orchestrate a scheme to tamper with absentee ballots in Harris’ favor. According to the Observer, Dowless paid people — sometimes high on opioids — in cash to collect and divert absentee ballots, an illegal action under North Carolina election laws.
Some voters said they handed their unsealed ballots over to one of these operatives.
The State Board of Elections and Ethics Reform has yet to certify the election results officially. The Board will hold a hearing on Dec. 21 to investigate “claims of irregularities and fraudulent activities.”
During the 2016 primary, Dowless allegedly used similar tactics for another campaign, also in North Carolina’s 9th. The candidate, who lost, paid for Dowless’ get-out-the-vote efforts and received 98 percent of the absentee ballot vote in the controversial Bladen County.
Red Dome Group is a GOP consulting firm that was contracted by two other candidates this cycle for consulting and get-out-the-vote efforts. Rep. Mark Meadows from North Carolina’s 11th District paid $36,115 and Melanie Leneghan from Ohio’s 12th District — who lost the primary — paid $51,750.
Dowless is also a convicted felon who faced jail time for fraud and perjury, according to the Observer.
McCready significantly outraised Harris, raising $4.8 million to his opponent’s $1.4 million.
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