The Manchurian Chair

by | Feb 10, 2014 | Democrats, Editor's Blog, NC Politics | 21 comments

And just when we thought the North Carolina Democratic Party was back on track, Randy Voller reminds us that he’s still chair. Yesterday, Voller, against the wishes of the executive committee, fired executive director Robert Dempsey. Apparently, Dempsey’s gotten too big for his britches, acting like he’s running the party or something.

Dempsey might not be perfect, but he’s the best thing that’s happened to the party since Voller became chair. (I know, I know. That’s not saying much.) Voller’s first months were marked by incompetence and embarrassing revelations. Dempsey began putting the house in order and people began taking North Carolina Democrats seriously again.

I don’t know Dempsey well. I’ve only met him once and spoken to him a few times on the phone. But he knows what he’s doing. He’s very professional. And he understands the role of the party and understands the job of executive director.

Since he’s been there, Dempsey’s overseen two major party fundraising events, the Western Gala last fall and the Sanford-Hunt-Frye Dinner last week. He’s respected by the staff, elected officials and other party officers. He was slowly rebuilding the trust that was lost under Voller and the previous chair.

Most importantly, Dempsey kept the party out of the headlines. Until now.

It was apparently too much for Voller. He needed to reestablish him self as buffoon-in-chief, since, you know, bad news is better than no news. At a time when Democrats should be rallying around their impressive candidates as the filing period opens, they’re focusing on more drama at the Goodwin House. The timing couldn’t be much worse.

Nobody’s saying much about the actual reasons for Dempsey’s dismissal. Rumors have it that Voller says he spent too much time with the Hagan campaign, that he didn’t raise enough money or that he slighted some people at the Sanford-Hunt-Frye Dinner. None of those seem fireable offenses, especially since Hagan is the top of the ticket, it’s Voller’s job to raise money and personal stuff needs to be put aside until after the election. Short of embezzlement, sexual harassment or some other grievous offense, Dempsey should stay through the cycle.

Voller may just be stupid, politically tone deaf and narcissistic. But what if he’s a Republican plant? It’s hard to imagine someone doing more to harm the credibility of the Democratic Party than Voller. 

I’m just being facetious, but given the damage he’s done, what’s the difference?


  1. Chris Telesca

    To Chris “no last name” I agree that many people will never know about the inside baseball stuff – but most people I have talked with across the state do care about it. I can’t tell you how many people at the SEC meeting asked who I was and told me to keep up the good work once they found out who I was. And they weren’t complimenting me on my ushering or photography skills.

    People do care! That’s the reason why David Parker’s forced resignation was rejected (and by an even larger margin than he won the chair’s office in 2011) precisely because people do care.

    I am not privy to any secrets – but other than second-hand information I hear from people who I know to be reliable, much of the information I have is from my direct observations made because I live in Wake County and we have our county party HQ in Goodwin House. When I show up to volunteer, or for a party meeting, or even to meet with a particular NCDP staffer or officer, I see and hear things. And I have a very good BS detector. Much of what I see and hear is fine – no problems. But when I see stuff that makes me feel like I have hit a wall of BS and have to shake it off – I gotta speak up!

    Part of having a fiduciary responsibility is a balancing act – part of which is trying not to do anything to damage the reputation of the group. And even while I want to see the biggest con-artists and grifters strung up in front of Goodwin House for public humiliation before being carted off to jail, even I realize that perhaps the best way to go is to reform as quietly as possible from the inside out. But sometimes when there are problems and people complain about them – something must be done more directly.

    I don’t agree with you that Voller has stirred up those things – the consultants and people between them and the big money donors have done that. Did Randy Voller put up the “Vladmir Voller” twitter site? And have you seen the disrespectful crap they are posting about Casey Mann? And the racist stuff they are saying about Dr. Ben Chavis to Executive Committee members? That just goes to show how desperate some folks are to control the party and the money they want to make from that control.

    Not sure how you are contributing directly to the candidates, but if you are contributing money, some will undoubtedly go right into the hands of the consultants who cost us elections in 2010 and 2012, and have cost us millions in donations over the past couple of years. The people who attacked Parker and continue to attack Voller are only out for the money! Wanna know how you can tell? See if they are supporting candidates they can’t vote for and ignoring candidates they can vote for! You are just feeding the bears in Yellowstone – it only encourages them!

    I am just the opposite – I certainly don’t give money to candidates or even work for them as a volunteer if they hire or otherwise do business with the grifters and con-artists. And I certainly won’t donate to a level of the party that employes disrespectful and insubordinate employees unless I know their bosses are working to fix the problem.

    I’ll work for the party to elect every Democrat on the ballot from top to bottom, but I refuse to encourage anything that builds up reliance on too much money in politics. The only way to remove the corrosive influence of money in politics (short of 100% public campaign financing and limits on spending) is to encourage more volunteer participation. But there aren’t enough folks to fully staff each and every campaign. When there are 20+ candidates running for various offices in my precinct, there aren’t enough volunteers to knock on every door and call every voter for each and every campaign. The only way to make that work and lessen the corrosive influence of money if the campaigns are coordinated – and that has to be done at the party level.

    But way too many big money donors are trying to wrest control of the party at the county and state levels by running PAC-like operations behind the front of the party. That’s been happening in certain counties for a while. They tried to do that with NCDP in 2012 but Parker turned them down. You see how they smeared him? Then they tried to run a slate of candidates to control the party in the 2013 election – and that failed when Voller won. And they’ve been attacking him ever since.

  2. Mark

    LOL, this is the same old NC Democratic party. They got caught with hand firmly in cookie jar, and brought in a standup guy to try and set things right. Now the heat is off, and they can bring in the guy of questionable moral fiber that has the moral latitude to do the things that Dempsey might have objected too. Plain and simple, no manchurian chair, just the same old Democratic Party we have been seeing in NC fo rthe last 140 years.

  3. Chris Telesca

    Can’t believe that you called Randy Vollmer “stupid” when you can’t spell his name correctly? It’s Voller – not Vollmer. If you have to resort to name calling, you have already lost the argument.

    Frankly, I have always admired part of the Nation of Islam for their organizational skills. I think that the skills he learned from Farrkhan would be put to good use here in NC. Luckily, it’s not left up to just you or me, or even Randy Voller. It gets put up to a vote of the Executive Council. And I hope that folks out there will be mature and accept the results of the vote even if they don’t agree with the results.

  4. Paleo Tek

    Hi Chris,

    You may want to focus on the “alleged” part, but I think the “serial” part is important too. $332,400 in settlement costs at the NAACP. $135,000 in settlement costs at the Nation of Islam. Those are large numbers, which suggests there’s something there. These circumstances would be a serious disqualification if I was headhunting for an executive position. Which makes one wonder, just how stupid is Vollmer? Apparently, pretty dumb.

    Further, I don’t think a Louis Farrakhan protege should be leading the NCDP. I seriously doubt he can do a good job of representing my values and interests, or those of my state at large.

    I’m not a political professional. I’m a partisan Dem. I agree that as a minority party, we cannot afford incompetence in high places. This nomination from Voller is political malpractice. Heads should roll for this fiasco, in particular, Randy Voller’s head.

    • Chris

      OK. Let me get this right. You say that Voller’s ally, Chavis, should be given a free pass because his crimes are only “alleged.” Then you argue that Parker and Voller should be appreciated for standing up to consultants who “steal” from the NCDP or are incompetent.

      When is the SEC going to demand that the NCDP file charges against these consultants for such theft or file a suit against these consultants for incompetence? Have you as a member of the SEC demanded action on these allegations? (You seem to know of a very specific theft of an NCDP mailing list.) Isn’t that your fiduciary responsibility to the NCDP donor base? Unless the NCDP files charges or sues, your claims are completely insubstantial, and the SEC appears to be allowing theft and waste of party resources to go unpunished.

      • Chris

        The above comment was meant for Mr. Telesca.

      • Chris Telesca

        Chris “no last name”: you raise good points. I do not say that Dr. Chavis should be given a free pass because the incidents are alleged. You say “crimes” – I say “incidents”. Because if they were “crimes” – then law enforcement could be involved.

        Of course Dr. Ben was charged with a crime and served jail time for something he could not possibly have done. Former Governor Hunt refused to pardon him – something Bev Perdue finally did. But I’ve heard reports of Executive Council members report that folks who called them refer to Dr. Chavis in the last few days as an “uppitty n*****”, and refer to Chairman Voller and anyone on the Exec Council who supports hiring Chavis as a “n***** lover”. So I understand were some of these attacks on Chavis are coming from. We still have some racists in our own party.

        As to your other point: I have long been an advocate of prosecuting NCDP employees, contractors and consultants for theft, misuse of resources, etc.
        I have long been an advocate of providing proper oversight and supervision of employees of the NCDP(and all other branches of the Party).

        However, reasons for not prosecuting the grifters and con-artists range from expiration of dragging elected public officials and their campaign consultants along as accessories (in the theft of the e-mail addresses).

        But I can see the other side where some folks want to deal with things unofficially. You saw how the GOP scrambled the NCDP going into 2010 by having the SBOE investigate Easley and the folks close to him. And you saw how Republicans fixated on John Edwards and even Bev Perdue going into 2012. Tell you what – if you feel that we should fully investigate these thefts, out the bastards and prosecute them fully – you feel free to make that motion at a State Executive Committee meeting. Let me know ahead of time and I’ll be standing right behind you ready to second the motion.

        • Chris Telesca

          Sorry the fourth paragraph wasn’t clear:

          However, reasons for not prosecuting the grifters and con-artists range from expiration of statute of limitation, now wanting to drag elected public officials and their campaign consultants along as accessories (in the theft of the e-mail addresses), and not wanting to air our dirty laundry and give the Republicans any more ammunition than absolutely necessary to go against us. Former NCDP ED Scott Falmlen was correct when he said that the Republicans do the same crap that we do, but when was the last time you saw a Republican investigated or charged with this stuff?

          • Chris

            I appreciate your response and understand your reasons. But, if we assume, as you imply, that Voller is operating with the approval of at least a majority of the SEC, and all we see is confusion and strife at the NCDP, it should come as no surprise that rank-and-file Democrats have no confidence in the party. Even if every word you say is true, most Democrats will never know of (much less care about) the insider baseball of which you know. The SEC wants to avoid showing the NCGOP our dirty laundry with consultants and so forth, but the SEC seems perfectly content with all the other public embarrassments Voller has stirred up. As a result, I haven’t donated directly to the NCDP or attended a dinner since 2010. When the NCDP calls now, I just say, “Thanks, but I’ll give to my local candidates directly.”

      • Chris Telesca

        I have told Randy Voller and other party officers time and time again that they need to go after the consultants and others for stealing from the party. But apparently some of these same consultants work for elected officials, or they are good friends with these elected officials and do not want the consultants prosecuted. I also gather that it’s not secret that stuff gets stolen and that other candidates and campaigns get to benefit from these thefts. I mean come on – how stupid do you have to be to not know that someone bringing you $10-12K worth of e-mail addresses in exchange for a job has stolen them from someplace- making you (a candidate) an accomplice to theft?

  5. Chris Telesca

    “alleged serial sexual harasser”? I think the operative word here is “alleged”. If you will recall, consultants brought up allegations of sexual harassment and allegations of an improper pay-off and cover-up at NCDP back in 2011.

    Folks like you demanded that Parmley resign for being an alleged harasser, and that Parker resign for authorizing a payment and covering-up. Parmley left, and Parker resigned, but the SEC rejected Parker’s resignation for a few very simple reasons.

    One – an internal investigation didn’t turn up any proof of any actual sexual harassment. I read the letter Ortega sent to NCDP and it sure looked like he wanted money otherwise he’d go public. Parker was advised that it would be cheaper for the Party to pay Ortega than pay the legal fees for either an EEOC investigation or a lawsuit. Federal law regarding employee privacy rights trumps your right to transparency. Parker was under no obligation and was in fact restricted by federal law from disclosing all these details. Parker admitted then he shouldn’t have taken the advice from the other lawyer and wishes he had let Ortega make his claim.

    Two – when Parmley resigned from his job, he qualified for unemployment compensation because the state of NC couldn’t prove that he was fired for cause. Meaning there was no proof of sexual harassment.

    Three – Ortega found a kindly lawyer to take his case pro bono. Which is rare in employment discrimination cases – unless of course you are suing the NCDP and your lawyer is a Republican operative named Kieran Shanahan and you want to screw up the NCDP in a big election year.

    Four – the lawsuits against Parker and NCDP were either dismissed by the courts or withdrawn by the plaintiff. Which pretty much means it was all bullshit in the first place.

    But it was enough bullshit and allegations and innuendo pumped up by political consultants upset with David Parker and Jay Parmley for trying to reform the process of selecting and paying political consultants through NCDP. The same people who attacked Parker and Parmley and failed in their attempt to get rid of Parker during the 2012 election cycle were also behind the attempt to take over the party during the 2013 party elections. They failed to rouse enough support to do what they wanted to do when their first candidate for Chair dropped out and their last-minute pick didn’t win. Then they started attacking Randy Voller for doing what he was elected to do – continue reforming the party (something started by Jerry Meek and David Parker) and clean up the mess at Goodwin House. They are continuing those attacks now – this original posting being part of those attacks.

    And I question the value and the objectivity of any current or former paid political consultant making these blog posts. If you have or are making money off the political process, or you are trying to help your friends who are making money off the political process – you are not objective.

    I’ve seen the so-called professional political operatives pull shit on the job that would get them fired from any regular job. But we keep making excuses for their bad behavior, their scams, misuse of party resources, if not outright theft. if you steal a pair of slippers worth $25 from any store – they’ll call the cops on you. If you steal $12K worth of e-mail addresses from NCDP and use them to get yourself a job on a campaign (where they use those e-mail addresses without paying for them), we are supposed to look the other way. Likewise if you were working at the DNC Convention in Charlotte and collectively walked away with half a million dollars worth of laptops, tablets, smart phones, etc – we are just supposed to ignore it.

    Maybe when we were the majority party we could afford to look the other way. But when we are in the minority, we can’t afford to do that. Staffers need to be held more accountable than in the past, and when they aren’t doing the job they were hired to do by elected party officers, they need to be given a chance to mend their ways or change their behavior. If they can’t act appropriately they need to be fired.

  6. Paleo Tek

    Good grief! At first I thought the Manchurian gibe was just hyperbole. But now he wants former Nation of Islam leader (and alleged serial sexual harasser, with large checks to attest to the fact) Ben Chavis to lead the NCDP. Maybe you’re right, Thomas, this clown is a plant. It’s a good time to express strong displeasure with Vollmer. I’ll make sure he comes up in a negative light at my precinct meeting.

  7. Carolina Polly

    The reason big donors aren’t giving money is a total lack of confidence in Randy Voller. Poor leadership indeed and he needs to go now.

    The NCDP Chair is a thankless and tricky job, but requires competence. We don’t have that today.

    • Chris Telesca

      Big money donors were running away from the party in 2010 – they were told by Bev Perdue not to donate money to the Party. Even then the 1% within our own party were figuring out they didn’t want the Chair to be subject to any democratic procedures – and that was with a rubber-stamp Chair.

      So please don’t blame Voller and Parker before him for the selfishness of rich donors.

      Parker was the target of a coup led by consultants who were charging too much for the mediocre work they were doing. They forced Parmley out, but couldn’t force the SEC to accept Parker’s resignation. But they did force Parker to accept staffers that weren’t up to the job for the rest of this term of office. And the big money donors and consultants wanted to take over the Party in 2013, but they came up a little short and pitched a hissy fit we are still seeing now. And Randy is handicapped by some people working for him who seem to be acting on behalf of the big corporate donors rather than in the best interests of the party as determined by the party officers and delegates.

      And while some of the folks hired to work at the party may be great at running campaigns and winning elections, that doesn’t explain why they suck at running the political party as something other than a money-laundering operation.

      The majority of officers have spoken – the NC Democratic Party exists to do more than to launder money from rich donors to campaigns and consultants. And we refuse to dance at the end of the strings that the big donors attach to their money. So you better get used to it. We do want to win elections, but we want to win them to do more than just make the rich donors richer. We want to elect candidates who will work to turn our party platform into public policy. And we want to and expect employees hired by the party to accept the direction and supervision of our party officers while doing the job they were hired for. They are not here to do the bidding of the big donors, or jam up the works in the hopes of being rewarded by a bigger and better job someplace down the road.

      I’ve had to accept the results of elections that didn’t go my way. I put aside my disappointment and went to work with the new party officers. But I worked hard to find better candidates and get out the vote for them in the next election.

      Both David Parker and Randy Voller were elected to clean up and reform the NC Democratic Party and continue the work started by Jerry Meek. I understand that upsets some folks. But those folks seem to be in the minority, even if they are the 1% or their surrogates.

  8. Mark Hufford

    Thomas, you and I haven’t always agreed in the past, but your commentary is right on the mark. I’ve never met Voller nor Dempsey, but I did work my butt off for the Party back when times were better. There’s no room nor extra time for this stuff, and the control of the U.S. Senate lies in the balance. Voller needs to step down for the good of the Party, the state, and the country. No hard feelings — not everybody is cut out for leadership at this level. Maybe there’s still a role for him to play. But he’s too unstable to be behind the wheel.

  9. Nancy G. Rorie

    It was against this SEC member’s wishes, and I would imagine the majority of the others. Voller is doing to NCDP just what he did to Union County during the chaos he helped create down here. When we would take a step forward, he’d push us two steps back.

    • Chris Telesca

      Where is your proof that Voller went against SEC member’s wishes?

  10. Maisimai

    Oh we know all about Voller in Chatham County. He doesn’t know when to stop.

    • Toomany Dunning Krugers

      He prefers the misfits in his clown car. It revs up his wheelhouse leader(less)ship shambles style, which goes unnoticed by the powerkoolaid kooks. But don’t be too harsh, “any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice” Dempsey sounded far too competent for Voller’s Dunning-Kruger

  11. Chris Telesca

    may I ask where is your proof that Voller went against the wishes of the NCDP Executive Committee?

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