CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Republican co-speaker of the state House said he signed off on the content of fliers that questioned the integrity of one fellow GOP lawmaker and described others as "an evil enemy."
The glossy fliers, distributed to more than 500 delegates at Saturday's state party convention in Charlotte, attacked a handful of lawmakers aligned against Richard Morgan, R-Moore.
The fliers said they were paid for by a group called Citizens for Honesty & Integrity. That name was given to be a new political action committee formed by Morgan's consultant, Paul Shumaker. State elections officials received the group's registration Monday.
Morgan said though he didn't see the fliers until Tuesday, he "was familiar with the concept of what it was going to be."
"Perhaps this Citizens for Honest & Integrity are folks who just said that Speaker Morgan was under attack and we're tired of those attacks, and now it's time to launch an attack (ourselves)," Morgan said.
Shumaker said he told Morgan and former Speaker Harold Brubaker, R-Randolph, another client, that "they needed a vehicle to fight back" against intra-party critics of Morgan's power-sharing deal with Democrats.
The deal led to Morgan and Democratic Co-speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, sharing the top position in the state House. The House GOP caucus had endorsed Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston. Many Republicans believe Morgan's deal cost them a chance to control the House outright.
Morgan's counterattack was the latest volley in a feud among Republican lawmakers that some fear could hurt prospects to pass legislation and build the party's legislative strength in next year's elections.
"None of this is productive," state party chairman Bill Cobey said. "A lot of our activists came out of that convention saying enough is enough, let's go forward."
Though U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole and former Gov. Jim Martin both appealed for party unity, convention delegates voted Saturday to "condemn" Morgan and his allies. Another resolution require future Republican candidates to sign loyalty oaths.
Morgan's critics distributed a 20-page document critical of "five self-interested politicians."
The pro-Morgan fliers, which appeared on delegates' chairs before the vote, intensified already-heated emotions.
One attacked Daughtry and four others who vocally opposed the power-sharing. It accused them of "undermining and dividing our party" with "backroom deals" and "slight-of-hand tactics."
Another flier targeted Daughtry ally Rep. Sam Ellis, R-Wake. It resurrected 10-year-old legal issues involving Ellis' handling of his son's trust fund, an issue Ellis said is old news.
Ellis said Citizens for Honesty & Integrity "have very little of either."
"People thought it was a low thing to do, and it was more indicative of their integrity than mine," he said of the flier attacking him.
Daughtry said the material distorted facts and "hurt my feelings."
Morgan defended the fliers.
"Anything that I saw (in them) was a matter of public record," he said. "And these guys have launched attack after attack after attack for a long time."
The fliers praised Morgan and Brubaker, saying they have "a proven track record of service."
Shumaker said the material cost "less than $3,000" but declined to say who paid for it. Elections officials say the group is required to report contributions within 10 days of registering or raising or spending any money.
Morgan calls his adversaries "extremists" and vows to find Republicans to challenge them in next year's primaries.
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