RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — As Common Cause North Carolina led the charge in court against the gerrymandered Legislative and Congressional districts drawn by Republicans, they believed they had a strong case.
What they couldn’t have expected was the death of Thomas Hofeller, the man is known as the guru of redistricting.
“Those files were to me, the real game-changer in my mind to the success of our litigation,” said Common Cause NC Executive Director Bob Phillips.
The organization learned of the documents after Hofeller’s daughter Stephanie found 18 flash drives and four hard drives in her father’s North Carolina apartment after he died. Those records eventually became part of Common Cause’s case.
“It was based on a violation of racial gerrymandering and so the legislature claimed that they would not be using any racial data to draw the new maps and that’s what the Hoffler files again showed that indeed he was looking at racial data and we were packing districts with large concentrations of African-American voters or cracking them. Both of those techniques or tactics used to dilute the votes of African-Americans and this was in complete contrast or counter to what the lawmakers stated publicly that they would not be using racial data at all,” said Phillips.
While some of the documents have been released the courts have not yet decided what other documents should be made public.
But, Sunday Stephanie Hofeller released all of them to the public saying on twitter “check it out, download it, put it on the wall, stomp on it, sacrifice it to the god of your choice, make art, make noise, have fun”.
There are thousands of pages. Some of the highlights that CBS 17 has found include:
- Dozens of proposed redistricted maps, including optimum and enacted statewide maps for both the N.C. House and Senate in 2011, and an alternate map for the Senate district including Cumberland and Hoke counties.
- A 2009 Powerpoint presentation for MAPS — Making America’s Promise Secure, a Republican not-for-profit welfare organization created to address Congressional/legislative reapportionment that has Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott as the co-chairs of its board of trustees. The presentation cited as goals to raise $40 million to fund its objectives — among them, to “enhance proficiency to use data and draw maps,” to build a national redistricting database.
- A Powerpoint presentation from a year later in which Hofeller argues gerrymandering is not a major factor in the political polarization of the House of Representatives.
- A 1099-MISC form from 2016 showing Hofeller’s firm, Geographic Strategies LLP, with $244,717 in nonemployee compensation from the Republican National Committee.
- A six-page letter from Hofeller to RNC Chair Michael Steele dated March 17, 2009, in which he laid out his redistricting action plan: “The RNC has always taken the lead in redistricting,” Hofeller wrote, “and I would be proud to participate once again.”
- A Dec. 18, 2009, letter from RNC Chief Counsel John Phillippe describing the addendum to Hofeller’s agreement as an independent contractor, saying he would be paid $28,500 per month from Jan. 1, 2010, to Jan. 15, 2011. “Dr. Hofeller is considered by many to be the GOP’s leading redistricting expert,” Phillippe wrote, “and the RNC is pleased to be able to retain his services for this critical process.”
- A 25-item list of “redistricting do’s and don’ts,” with one-sentence tips: “Don’t get Greedy and try to build too many districts for your party” and “do not discuss senitive (sic) Redistricting issues using e-mail.”
- A 23-page paper from 2001 focusing on the key redistricting issues following the 2010 census.
- Early voting statistics from 2014 and their changes from 2010, further broken down by political party and by race, and a summary of 2014 general election voting trends, detailed by party, race, and age.
- A one-page paper last saved in 2015 that urged the U.S. Census Bureau to continue its practice of counting prisoners as part of the population where they are locked up. He argued that if “residency rules for group quarters (such as prisons, college dorms, and nursing homes) change (sic) just for one class, they should be changed for all.”
“I think if the documents had moved from the late Thomas Hofeller to someone who was on the same wavelength as he was, about what should and shouldn’t be released, we would be in a much different situation than having it go from him to his estranged daughter, who is antagonistic to the things he believed in, and certainly does not mind that things that shouldn’t get out into the public do,” said Senior Political Analyst Mitch Kokai, of the Raleigh-based conservative think tank, the John Locke Foundation.
Kokai added “This is a decision to be made through the course of the legal process, not something for the gentleman’s estranged daughter to say, ‘I’ve got all this stuff, I’m going to put it out there, because we the people have the right to it.’ Well, we the people don’t necessarily have the right to something that was a private document that the person who put it together wanted to remain private.”
Common Cause NC isn’t commenting on the recent document dump.
However, the group believes what it contains helped prove their case.
“Every single Congressional and Legislative map was found unconstitutional in North Carolina except for going into the 2020 election. That’s unheard of. I mean I don’t think there’s another state in the country that can say that. That’s shameful,” said Phillips.
As for the legality of the release, Stephanie Holfeller’s attorney Tom Sparks tells CBS 17 that Stephanie received permission from her mother to take possession of the hard drives and flash drives.
Sparks says no court has deemed that they’re anyone else’s property but Stephanie’s.
Dalton Lamar Oldham, a South Carolina attorney who in court documents has since claimed sole ownership of Geographic Strategies, did not immediately return messages left at either of two phone numbers CBS 17 called seeking comment.
Greensboro attorney Robert Neal Hunter Jr., who represented the company last month in Wake County Superior Court, declined comment Tuesday in an email to CBS 17 because the matter is still pending in court.
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