Records: NC’s Harris owes $53,000 to firm at center of ballot effort

States where the most people go hungry
9 (tie). North Carolina -- 14.4 percent

The campaign of North Carolina Republican Mark Harris still owed more than $53,000 after last month’s election to a consulting firm at the center of an absentee ballot effort that has sparked allegations of fraud and could trigger a new House election, new filings show.

More than $34,000 of Harris’ debt to Red Dome Group centered on a “reimbursement payment for Bladen absentee” work and other election efforts, according to a post-election report Harris’ campaign filed late Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.

Red Dome hired Leslie McCrae Dowless, a veteran political operative, to work on the get-out-the-vote operation on Harris’ behalf. Dowless, who pleaded guilty to federal insurance fraud in 1992, is now at the center of state and local investigations probing whether absentee ballots were used to alter the results in Bladen County, where Harris won 96% of the absentee vote.

Dowless has denied any wrongdoing in comments to The Charlotte Observer. He has not responded to CNN requests for comment.

The allegations of ballot tampering now have cast doubts on Harris’ 905-vote advantage over Democrat Dan McCready in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District — the last unresolved race in this year’s tumultuous midterm elections.

The state’s election board has refused to certify the results. On Thursday, McCready withdrew his concession to Harris. On Friday, Harris said he was “absolutely unaware of any wrongdoing” and said he would support a new election if illegal activity is found.

Red Dome officials did not immediately respond to inquiries Friday. In all, Harris spent more than $500,000 with Red Dome over the course of the election cycle.

The new filing from Harris’ campaign captures just a snapshot of campaign activity between Oct. 17 and Nov. 26 and does not detail how much was paid to Dowless through Red Dome. As November drew to a close, however, Harris’ campaign also owed Red Dome more than $19,000 for other expenses, including digital advertising and “Robeson mailers.”

Robeson County abuts Bladen County. This week, a CNN review of absentee ballot envelopes also found irregularities with witness signatures in Robeson. Unlike Bladen County, however, McCready won more of the absentee vote in Robeson than Harris did.