FACT CHECK: Stein campaign sends cease-and-desist letter to PAC over campaign ad

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The re-election campaign for North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein sent an immediate cease-and-desist letter Friday to a political action committee that produced a campaign ad attacking him.

Stein, a Democrat, is facing Republican challenger Jim O’Neill in the general election.

READ THE CBS 17 POLITICAL PLEDGE

CBS 17 took a closer look at some of the claims in the ad as part of our political pledge to test the factual accuracy of public communications offered by candidates, political action committees or partisan groups.

THE CLAIM: The 15-second ad accuses Stein of being “silent” when protests earlier this summer turned violent, and says he “supports reduced sentences for violent criminals.”

THE FACTS: The ad was produced by the Old North PAC, which is an entity of the Republican Attorneys General Association.

It brings up Stein’s voting record when he was in the North Carolina Senate 11 years ago. 

One of the links referenced in the ad is a story from the Civitas Institute summarizing two bills from 2009 that the General Assembly passed and then-Gov. Beverly Perdue signed into law.

Senate Bill 488, titled “Establishing Proportionate Sentencing Lengths,” and Senate Bill 489, titled “Even Out Prior Criminal Record Points,” changed the scale of the point system on the grid used in sentencing. Those changes could result in shorter sentences for some repeat felons.

Stein voted for both of those bills, and so did most Democrats. No Republicans in the senate at the time voted for them.

When asked by CBS 17 News about those votes, Stein campaign spokesman Eric Stern said the AG did so “to rationalize our sentencing schedules to make them fairer” and that he “does not believe sentences for violent criminals should be reduced.”

He also pointed out that the “the Republican legislature has reaffirmed this law every session” for the past decade.

The ad also says Stein was “silent on the burning” and “silent on the violence” earlier this summer when protests in some cities turned violent.

But CBS 17 News found a statement on the attorney general’s official website issued in June shortly after the George Floyd protests. In it, he said “others are exploiting these moments for their own agenda, forcing many already struggling small businesses to bear the cost. That is unacceptable and wrongdoers should be held accountable, but it will not distract from the work we have to do to heal our nation.”

The cease-and-desist letter was sent by the Raleigh law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, which represents Stein, on Friday via FedEx to the Old North PAC’s address in Washington.

It calls for the group to stop disseminating the ad, and “your failure to immediately cease and desist will result in our taking further action, including actions with respect to any disseminating media outlets.” It asks the group to confirm compliance by Sept. 10.

In response, PAC spokeswoman Kelly Laco told CBS 17 News that the committee will not take down the ad.

“It is unfortunate that Josh Stein continues to mislead voters about his continued failure to condemn the riots and the inflammatory remarks by his colleague Massachusetts Attorney General and National Democrat Attorneys General Association Co-Chair Maura Healey, who praised the continued burning of America’s cities,” Laco said in a statement. “If Stein changed his position on criminal sentencing since he voted in the legislature to release violent criminals, then he owes North Carolina’s voters an explanation. The Old North PAC will not be taking down its ad, which simply points out Stein’s inaction on condemning riots and his public voting record while in the state legislature.”

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