What are you doing this weekend, blogbloggers?

Oh, just factchecking a CHALT factcheck of our factcheck.


If you’re just joining us, it’s time for our third (and hopefully final!) installment of fact-checking CHALT’s campaign finance documents. We did a deep dive into their first year-end semi-annual report, and then—after they amended it—we reported that new payments appeared, some payments shifted, and some payments were still missing altogether. (You can read the email we sent them here.)

Well now CHALT has responded in a blog post, and….there’s still a bunch of stuff that’s weird!

We know that this insider baseball campaign finance stuff is a) only super interesting to like 7 people and b) really arcane and detailed – so we’ll keep this short.

The first big thing: Henkel’s document doesn’t address why the February filing is different than the January one.

We first want to point out that their note fails to address a big issue: that their end-of-year electronic filing in February has significant differences from their end-of-year filing on paper in January.

As background, CHALT-PAC submitted their report, covering the time from July 1 through December 31, 2023, in paper format in January. After the NC State Board of Elections received the January paper filing, the board notified CHALT-PAC that they met the threshold for filing electronically, so they were asked to do so. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But… it was supposed to be the exact same year-end report, showing transactions from the second half of 2023, as they filed in January. No changes! So the filing should have been identical. Particularly since CHALT-PAC treasurer Tom Henkel claimed in an email to the Blog Blog that the January paper report was free of errors.

But instead, the February electronic filing is really, really different than the January paper filing. Let’s step through some of the key differences:

  • The February electronic filing lists a donor who gave $3,000. That donor was not listed in the “error-free” January report.
  • According to CHALT-PAC’s amended November 25 pre-election report, Bruce Henschel gave $100 on October 2. That payment was not included on the “error-free” January report. But it reappears in the February filing.
  • The in-kind contribution of $35 (supposedly for the Friends of Bolin Creek event, discussed below), and the $200 in-kind contribution for website updates (also discussed below) are included in the January report but do not appear in the February filing. The reported amount of total in-kind contributions changed from $235 (on the January report) to $0 (on the February filing.)

These discrepancies are unexplained. Tom Henkel’s “last word” elides all of these inconsistencies.

(Another item corrected: the “error-free” January report listed one donation as coming from two people. It’s pretty basic campaign finance law that you report donations on an individual basis, because contribution limits apply to individuals. We’d think someone who’s been a PAC treasurer for seven years would know that. The February electronic filing corrects that error.)

The second big thing: Henkel’s document doesn’t go into the missing expenditures at all

CHALT-PAC’s “last word” omits any mention of all of the missing spending that pretty clearly occurred.

Remember the Friends of Bolin Creek event in Umstead Park, on September 24? Then-CHALT-PAC assistant treasurer Charles Humble, who also served as David Adams’ campaign manager, paid the $35 fee. His name and address is listed on the report submitted to the Town of Chapel Hill. Julie McClintock said that was a mistake, and the January report showed a $35 in-kind contribution from her for that fee. In the February amended filing, the $35 fee is nowhere to be found.

As we reported earlier, CHALT-PAC touted that an ice cream truck would appear at their September 24 campaign event and give away free ice cream. Pictures of the event show an ice cream truck, and also people eating ice cream. There’s a mention of the ice cream truck on social media, in a newsletter, and in an event flier. No expenditure appears for the ice cream truck in any version of their year-end semi-annual report (or, for that matter, any of their interim reports).

The Doug Largent Band played at the September 24 event. Pictures of the event show several musicians. A newsletter mentions the band. There’s no in-kind expenditure listed for the band in any of their campaign finance reports.

In October, the Daily Tar Heel reported, “If CHALT was the host, the expenses for the event would fall under “independent expenditures” for the purpose of federal campaign law and should be filed under expenditures from CHALT’s PAC, the Chapel Hill Leadership PAC.”

There’s more. As we mentioned before, the August revamp of CHALT’s website was listed as a $200 expenditure in CHALT-PAC’s January report. This expenditure is missing altogether in the February filing. (Of note, two candidates listed website redesigns in their campaign finance reports—and we’ll note that they each paid substantially more than $200.)

There is also no expenditure listed for web hosting for the CHALT website or the newsletter that CHALT sends out. We searched back through campaign finance forms from 2015 onwards—CHALT-PAC has never mentioned who pays for their website, which is where their PAC accepts donations and where they list endorsements, or their newsletter, which was sent out several times in the weeks leading up to the campaign and contained campaign-related material and endorsements.

It’s not there!

Charles Humble overlapped as campaign manager and assistant treasurer of the PAC

Tom writes, “Charles Humble was the Assistant Treasurer for the CHL-PAC until June 2023, when he resigned to become the Campaign Manager of a candidate for Town Council.”

The paperwork disagrees. David Adams filed to run for office on July 13, 2023. Humble was not removed as assistant treasurer until September 28, 2023. There was a two month and two week overlap.

Tom writes,”It is contrary to the election rules for political action committees to coordinate with candidate committees, so one person cannot be Assistant Treasurer for a PAC and Campaign Manager for a Candidate.”

That is true.

Campaign fines

It is correct to say that the fines have never appeared on a campaign finance form submitted by Henkel. That’s because he’s never paid them. But the fines are still hanging out there. Nothing that the Board of Elections has written in CHALT-PAC’s file suggests otherwise.

After the first late filing, in 2018,  the $250 penalty was waived. After the second late filing, in 2020, CHALT-PAC was fined $500. There is no record that this penalty was paid. And in 2021, CHALT-PAC was fined for a late filing for a third time, once again for $500. This time CHALT PAC appealed, and in November 2021, the State Board of elections rejected its appeal.

We asked Henkel, CHALT’s treasurer, about the 2021 penalty.

He said, “Those reports you cite were the result of inexperienced SBE staff members not performing their jobs well.” He shared an email with a Board of Elections staff member who said in December 2021 they would review the matter and respond soon, but Henkel reported the staff member never responded and CHALT has never paid.

It seems clear to us that CHALT was penalized. Being fined is not the same thing as paying a fine.

The fine remains outstanding.

This piece was written by Geoff Green and Melody Kramer