Internal memos leaked after a cyberattack on Democratic Party computers reveal an informal “incumbency protection program” in Washington, D.C., says former North Carolina state Sen. Malcolm Graham, who lost to U.S. Rep. Alma Adams this year.
Graham was one of two political challengers to Adams in the June 7 Democratic primary in the 12th Congressional District, which includes the Charlotte area.
The stolen documents from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) surfaced about three months ago, published by a blogger, but have reemerged because of a federal investigation into how and why hackers infiltrated Democratic Party computers.
Democrats in Congress want an investigation into whether Russian government officials attempted to help President-elect Donald Trump win. U.S. intelligence agencies have said analysts believe Russia was behind the Democratic Party email hacks, which included the Democratic National Committee and the DCCC.
The pending congressional investigation primarily falls to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by North Carolina’s senior Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, from Winston-Salem. Burr and others say they will look into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election cycle.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Democrats in at least a dozen U.S. House races across the country were affected in the same intrusions, including in North Carolina. The Times reported on leaked emails affecting races in Pennsylvania and Florida, all by a hacker who used the moniker Guccifer 2.0. Cybersecurity experts have said Guccifer 2.0 was connected to the Russian government.
The DCCC leaked memos about North Carolina’s House race reveal concerns about redistricting in the state after the 2010 census and, specifically, how the redrawn congressional districts would affect Adams’ bid for a second term.
In a March 22, 2016, memo addressed to House Minority Leader U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, DCCC political director Ian Russell wrote: “Both the DCCC and EMILY’s List have been engaged with Rep. Adams team to provide the support necessary to win in a potentially tough primary. Both the CBC (Congressional Black Caucus) and NC delegation are very involved in Rep. Adams’ re-election.”
No one is claiming that the leak made a difference in the House race in North Carolina, only that the leaked documents revealed that the DCCC favored the incumbent. “Obviously, the (Democratic National Committee) and the DCCC was offering (Adams) the type of support that they offer incumbents,” Graham told McClatchy in a phone interview Wednesday.
“In D.C., there’s an ‘Incumbency Protection Program’ where they kind of tend to pick winners and losers based on who’s currently serving and who’s not,” Graham said. “You would suspect they would stay neutral in a Democratic primary, but I think those who are heavily involved in government and politics know at that level they tend to pick winners and losers.”
Adams’ House chief of staff on Wednesday rejected Graham’s assertion the DCCC unfairly helped her.
“The DCCC provides general member services to current Democratic House members. These resources are available to all House Democrats and candidates,” said Chief of Staff Rhonda Foxx in an email statement to McClatchy.
For example, she said, the DCCC provides space for candidates to hold campaign meetings and provides access to recording studios.
The DCCC on Wednesday told McClatchy that it didn’t pay for polling for Adams or “anything else related to her campaign.”
Graham said his campaign never complained but knew “the playing field wasn’t level from the beginning.”
“We just soldiered on,” he said.
The DCCC had “a thumb on the scale,” he said, to Adams’ advantage in the primary.
A website called “Progressive Army” first published the stolen DCCC documents in September. In the memos, Democratic strategists describe Adams as having an advantage over her two primary challengers: Graham, and a third candidate, N.C. Rep. Tricia Cotham, a teacher who was first appointed to the N.C. House in 2007.
Cotham, according to a leaked memo, had support in Charlotte’s suburbs. Graham, a former Charlotte City Council member, was described in the memo as having strong support among voters in Mecklenburg County. “Rep. Adams has the benefit of having represented the majority of the voters in the new district and thus having good name recognition,” the memo states.
Adams, who moved from Greensboro to Charlotte in 2016 to remain a 12th District resident, won the June 7 primary by nearly 4,000 votes or about 14 percentage points. She later beat Republican challenger Leon Threatt by more than 34 percentage points in the Nov. 8 election.
Another memo shows Adams requested an Oct. 9, 2016, meeting with DCCC Chairman U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico to talk about redistricting in North Carolina and the legal challenge to the state’s district maps.
The debate surrounding the redrawn districts in North Carolina recently reached the Supreme Court, with attorneys for a group of black voters arguing that state lawmakers primarily used racial demographics to set district boundaries, in violation of federal law. Attorneys for the state and the Republican-controlled N.C. General Assembly argue race wasn’t the predominant factor used but, instead, political party affiliation. The suit challenges the districts maps used in the 2014 elections, not the 2016 election.
A decision on the case is expected in 2017.