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Holding Super PAC Up for Debate in North Carolina
Posted By Elizabeth Murphy On April 30, 2012 @ 6:24 pm In News | Comments Disabled
The former North Carolina U.S. Attorney noted for his prosecution of former Sen. John Edwards is now facing questions about the super PAC supporting his bid for Congress.
George Holding, former U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of North Carolina, is running against former Raleigh Mayor Paul Coble for the Republican nomination for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. A Tea Party-backed candidate named Bill Randall is also in the race.
At a debate that aired on Sunday on Raleigh’s NBC-17, Holding was asked about the American Foundations Committee,  a political action committee that can collect money from any source and spend without limit, as long as there is no coordination between the PAC and the candidate it supports. These so-called “super PACs” came into use after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision overturned Watergate-era limits on corporate and union spending in federal races.
American Foundations Committee has raised  more than $560,000, with almost all of the donations  coming from members of Holding’s family. The Holding family has a controlling interest in the parent company of First Citizens Bank. Among the PAC donors are Holding’s cousin Frank B. Holding, Jr., who is chairman and CEO of the bank, and an aunt and uncle.
During the debate, the NBC affiliate aired a clip of Holding telling supports that he believes special interest PACs are some of the most “corrupting influences in Washington.” But in February, the super PAC supporting Holding launched a wide-scale TV ad campaign to boost Holding’s profile in the district. The debate moderator asked Holding: Couldn’t this group be considered a special interest PAC in this context?
“It’s funded by my relatives and some very old family friends,” Holding responded. “Hardly what I’d call a special interest … If you can’t get support from your family and your friends, who are you going to get support from?”
Holding also said his campaign has garnered donations from more than 1,100 people, ranging from a software company billionaire to a retired truck driver. ”I go to my friends and I go to my family and I say this is what I want to do – this is what I think I can do in Washington, will you help me?” Holding said in the debate.
Coble, in an interview with Main Justice, said he finds it hard to believe Holding and his family-backed super PAC aren’t coordinating, which would be illegal. “His core answer was that they are all just family and friends and we are working together to get me elected — that sounds like a coordinated effort to me,” Coble said.
Carter Wrenn, an adviser for Holding’s campaign, told Main Justice there is no collusion between the super PAC and the former prosecutor’s campaign, saying Coble has not cited any credible evidence to the contrary. ”Boy, that’s a stretch,” Wrenn said of Coble’s previous assertions  that the PAC and the campaign are working in collusion. “He’s just making it up out of thin air.”
Wrenn also said a group of family and friends hardly represent a “special interest.”
The PAC has pushed a television ad campaign in recent weeks, in an effort to raise the former prosecutor’s profile. The money has outpaced Coble and Randall. To date, the Coble campaign has raised about $234,000, while Randall has netted about $26,000. Coble has also received about $6,000 from two insurance and hospital PACs, according to a report  in the Raleigh News Observer. Holding, on the other hand, has raised about $1.4 million, with the PAC funds included.
Coble told Main Justice he believes the American Foundations Committee violates Federal Election Commission rules on PACs. He said the PAC is being funded by family and friends, many of whom own and operate the multi-billion dollar bank. ”If that’s not a special interest then I’ve got some land for you in Florida I’ll sell you,” he said.
Coble, a nephew of the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), also has been critical of Holding’s prosecutions  of high-profile Democrats Edwards and former North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley, calling them a waste of taxpayer money.
Correction (May 2, 2012): This article previously incorrectly stated the total assets of the Holding family’s bank. First Citizens Bancshares is worth about $21 billion.
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