Let me Googe that for you. Filling in congressional blanks.

Republican Sue Googe’s quixotic campaign to unseat Congressman David Price in an overwhelmingly Democratic 4th Congressional District has built a superficially compelling narrative but close scrutiny reveals holes clearly visible in the light of public information. “Let me Google that for you”.

Googe is registered to vote at an address in the 4th District where she does not appear to live. Congressional candidates are not required by law to live in the district they hope to represent, but it helps. Jiangxiu “Sue” Fu Googe has been a Cary resident since 2004 when she and her husband bought a 2,400 SF home in a desirable Lochmere development. It was located in the 13th District when Sue Googe filed to run in the 4th Congressional District and it is currently located in the 2nd District.

Googe changed her voter registration address on 10/12/2015 to the 4th District at an investment property she purchased in West Raleigh in 9/25/2015, but does not appear to live in. It is a 1,600 SF condominium townhouse that has been undergoing renovation in recent months. Typically a utility trailer and building materials have occupied the carport along with packages of campaign signs. Pictures of the foreclosure property posted at the time of sale show a barely habitable interior. Based on the pictures and listing information there appears to have been necessary remediation due to water damage but no renovation had been undertaken at the time of sale. During one visit to the vacant property in late April a toilet and outside AC unit were visible inside on the floor of a living area.GoogeToilet

Public documents recorded since the October voter registration change suggest that Googe continues to live at her Cary home. Her husband is still registered at the Cary address and voted in the March primary in that precinct. Sue Googe has already voted in the June primary and voted in the March primary both times with a ballot specific to Raleigh precinct 01-48. A notarized deed and a traffic citation provide conflicting information.

Googe, born in China, became a US Citizen in 2005. According to the Wake County Board of Elections she first registered to vote 10/10/2008 as an Unaffiliated voter at the address of her Cary home. On 2/26/2015 she changed her party affiliation to Republican. On 10/12/2015 she changed her registration to the West Raleigh property she had just acquired. The change was made in Wake County Elections records 10/20/2015.

The following day 10/21/2015 Jiangxiu Fu Googe and her husband executed a quitclaim deed, transferring ownership of their Cary home to a trust at one of Googe’s known business addresses. The deed, recorded 10/24/2015 clearly states “This property is the primary residence of the Grantor”. (Googe makes frequent use of trusts to hold and trade property. The practice has some tax advantages, there is less personal liability for unseen conditions subsequent to a sale, and it has the effect of obscuring ownership.)

On 5/5/2016 Sue Googe received a speeding ticket from a State Trooper in Chatham County for driving 73 MPH in a 55 MPH zone. According to the citation the address on Googe’s NC driver license is that of the Cary home. The BMW SUV listed in the citation has been observed parked at the Cary address.

Googe also owns a 4,928 SF home in an unincorporated area of Wake County near Fuquay Varina. It too is located in the new 2nd Congressional District. This home was purchased by Sue Googe in her own right with a mortgage from the State Employees Credit Union (SECU). The terms of the deed of trust recorded 10/17/2014 indicate that this was to be a primary residence. On the same day Googe also executed a quitclaim deed transferring the property to a trust. That deed clearly states “This property is not the primary residence of the Grantor”. The Googe’s Cary home also has an SECU mortgage as a primary residence per a deed recorded 1/17/2014. There is no indication of a second home rider for mortgages on either property.

Much of Googe’s real estate holdings appear to be undervalued foreclosure properties bought from HUD or Fannie Mae with cash. In a review of deed transfers it was typical to find the properties subsequently used to obtain loans from private lenders. Some of these lenders are individuals and some are businesses. One business which made a loan of $80,000 on the Fuquay Varina residence is a federal contractor with EPA contracts. The public has a right to know which individuals and business entities its representatives are indebted to, especially when they are federal contractors or have lobbying interests.

A Financial Disclosure Statement filed by Googe with the US House Clerk provides some information about Googe’s finances but not in the prescribed manner. Instead of completing the forms as required, attached spreadsheets and statements list real estate holdings and accounts. A purported earnings statement is little more than a pay stub for a two week period in July 2015. A detailed listing of real estate shows 22 wholly owned properties and 8 partially owned properties. While the spreadsheet lists some $2-3 million in mortgage debt there is no required listing of liabilities identifying individual loans or creditors by name, a significant omission.

On 5/5/2014 the day before that year’s primary, Googe gave $1,000 to Republican George Holding running unopposed as the 13th District Congressional incumbent. On 5/9/2014, three days after a primary, Googe gave $1,000 to her next door neighbor then running in the 13th District race against Holding – Democratic primary winner Brenda Cleary. Something was happening on Googe’s political journey. For the rest of 2014 records only indicate one donation, to a judicial campaign.

In 2/26/2015 Googe changed her party registration to Republican. Throughout 2015 records show numerous donations to Republican party committees. As for candidates, there is one contribution to Pat McCrory, three to Dan Forest (and two to Democrat Janet Cowell though Cowell’s deep interest in China explains those donations). On 8/31/2015 the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) received a contribution of $1,000 from Pemberley Properties, a real estate business controlled by Sue Googe. The path to candidacy had apparently begun. Googe’s federal campaign finance records have numerous rookie mistakes. A loan from one of her businesses appears to be improper as it is not an entity making loans “in the ordinary course of business”. One donor has ties to Dan Forest and calls himself “formally appointed as International Business and Trade Advisor to NC Lt. Governor Dan Forest” a title with no statutory basis. Ethics disclosures show that Forest has been an active participant in RSLC events.

Googe’s campaign narrative portrays a political refugee from communist China. Her transition to the US was a little more pedestrian than the campaign would have us believe. On 8/17/2000 Jiangxiu Fu and Rusty Googe obtained a marriage license and were married the same day. Documents indicate that Jiangxiu Fu was previously married and divorced. Wake County records indicate that Jianxiu Fu filed 3/21/2000 for divorce on the basis of a 1 year separation from Jianshuo Niu, granted 5/19/2000. Niu appears to be a Wake County resident. In a now archived website previously maintained by Googe she posted a caption to a photograph from the late 1990s: “The old day (sic) I was in Hong Kong. The place I lived for several years. I thought Hong Kong was the best place in the world until I came to the US.”

Why should this bother me? I live in the 4th Congressional District. Googe presumes to represent me in Congress while spinning tales that don’t reconcile with known facts. There is no clear indication that Googe has abandoned her Cary residence, and her disclosures are less than forthcoming. The campaign appears to have more to do with opportunistic self-promotion than political engagement, but then again, that’s flavor of the day for GOP candidates.

Shades of Gray: McCrory appointed judge, candidate contributions

According to North Carolina state campaign finance reports 17 candidate contributions have been attributed to Judge Beecher “Gus” Gray since 2008, totaling $12,046 received by 5 candidates. If the reports are correct some would seem to represent violations of the NC Judicial Code of Conduct. Canon 7 of the Code prohibits judges from personally making financial contributions or loans to almost all individuals seeking election to office.

Beecher Reynolds Gray was appointed by Governor Pat McCrory as a Special Superior Court Judge in January 2014, prior to which he had served as an Administrative Law Judge for the Office of Administrative Hearings since 1986. He was sworn in 01/09/2014 for a term ending 01/09/2019. Six of the 17 contributions have been recorded since taking office. The six campaign contributions provided $1,000 to Pat McCrory, $2,650 to Brent Jackson, and $1,000 to Phil Berger Sr. (These six contributions are specifically covered by the Judicial Code of Conduct)*.

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Goodall forms charter school 527 group

Eddie Goodall may have stepped out of the NC charter school media spotlight but he still lurks just behind the curtain. Early February the NC Public Charter Schools Association made a big to-do about Goodall stepping down as executive director and handing the reigns to Lee Teague. Goodall had been president of the NC Alliance for Public Charter Schools before leaving to set up and lead the NC Public Charter Schools Association as a competing group. Goodall’s departure was apparently intended to help the two groups, and others, mend fences.

“I think more people will step in the void when I step out,” Goodall said

But Goodall hasn’t gone far. Continue reading

Signs of Gary Pendleton’s arrogance

Gary Pendleton’s illegal campaign signs around Raleigh are the least of his problems. Pendleton, running for NC State House District 49 against Kim Hanchette has used a facsimile of legislative letterhead to solicit votes in apparent violation of Legislative Ethics Guidelines. Pendleton is a relatively new incumbent, having been appointed 8/18/2014 to the seat made vacant by the death of Jim Fulghum. Official legislative stationery or mailing privileges may not be used to solicit votes and, according to a recipient of such a letter, it did not contain a required clear disclaimer stating that the stationery was not printed or mailed at State expense.
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$32K missing from Marcus Brandon campaign report

$31,818.36 is missing from the federal election campaign finance filings of the Marcus Brandon for Congress committee. A Pre-Primary report filed 4/24/14 showed a cash-on-hand ending balance of $31,818.36. The subsequent July Quarterly report filed 7/16/2014 showed a zero cash-on-hand beginning balance when it should have shown the $31,818.36 carried over. One $1,000.00 contribution on 5/2/2014 was reported. No expenditures were reported. The report showed a cash-on-hand ending balance of $1,000.00. An October Quarterly report due 10/15/2014 was not filed. While Cecil Antonio Brockman is still listed as the Treasurer, the July Quarterly report filed 7/16/2014 that showed zero cash-on-hand was electronically signed uncharacteristically as “Antonio Cecil Brockman”.
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Marcus Brandon Pays Prohibited Contribution Penalty

Marcus Brandon, NC State Representative and a congressional candidate paid a penalty of $5,000 for prohibited contributions to his state campaign committee, and may have used another prohibited payment to do so. Brandon, a Democratic primary candidate for the Congressional District 12 elections, used a check drawn on the account of his congressional campaign to satisfy the penalty imposed by the NC State Board of Elections (NCSBE) as part of an ongoing audit.

The $5,000 check was given to the NCSBE on February 28th to be paid directly into the NC Civil Penalty and Forfeiture Fund on March 1st, and reported as disbursed for “penalties and fees” in a quarterly report to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) by the Marcus Brandon for US Congress committee. Brandon is not running for re-election to his state seat.
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Is Tillis Betting the Farm?

NC House Speaker Thom Tillis, has reportedly loaned $250,000 of personal money to his US Senate campaign committee. His Cornelius home is currently on the market for sale at an asking price of $825,000, according to Carolina Multiple Listing Services as listed on Realtor.com. His wife Susan, a real estate broker, is the listing agent at Allen Tate Realtors in Charlotte.

Real estate records indicate that a mortgage debt in the amount of $417,000 was satisfied in June. Earlier this year in February a different loan in the amount of $200,000 was secured by the property. It would appear that Thom Tillis intends to throw everything he has at the US Senate race.

Update: Tillis is selling his “domicile” but it’s not his only Mecklenburg property. He has a more valuable house on Lake Norman, and condo in Davidson. He’ll be one home less but won’t be homeless.