In 2004, when Patrick McHenry ran against other Republicans in the Congressional Primary, he was well known for using College Republicans to assist his campaign work- being the youngest man on the ballot, this was no surprise to no-one. However, as history would show, Patrick McHenry would make some of the dumbest moves of his life in this election.
In this 2004 election, it was revealed that Patrick McHenry was living with a campaign staffer, Michael Aaron Lay. Lay, who served as a former campaign aide, stayed at McHenry’s house well into the 2004 election, and evidence of a traffic ticket reveals that Lay stayed at McHenry’s house well into 2005, past the election cycle. While Lay technically stayed a resident of Tennessee, he nonetheless lived with McHenry most of the week, where he listed himself as a resident.
During this time, McHenry was charged with getting many of these underage College Republicans drunk and partying with them. According to Affidavidts with the North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement agency, McHenry was closely involved (or potentially hosted) a party with underage students after a 2004 Catawba County Lincoln Day dinner, in which beer and wine liberally flowed, and McHenry was photoed holding a lollypop with drunk students clearly holding cans of alcohol (right). According to statements by the Alcohol Law Enforcement agency, the students asserted that the alcohol was provided by the McHenry camp, though this is questionable. Despite the source of the alcohol, it was clear through reports that McHenry was fully aware of both the alcohol consumption and the age of many of the staffers.
The living situation became worse as Lay was found to have voted illegally twice in McHenry’s election- by using McHenry’s Cherryville home as a “residence” and voting for McHenry. Michael Aaron Lay was not a permanent resident of North Carolina, and under NC law, it is illegal to register in a district when you have no intentions of permanently living in that district. In this primary race, McHenry won by only 86 votes- so naturally, voters were a little disturbed by the way in which McHenry’s staffer was voting.
Photo: Michael Aaron Lay (far right) in court
Naturally, Lay was charged with Voter Fraud in Gaston County- but here’s where it gets even dirtier. McHenry then quickly utilized his PAC, “More Conservatives“, which good Republicans donate to for Republicans to get into office, to fund Lay’s court case, despite the wishes of those donating to the PAC. According to Roll Call, Patrick McHenry gave Lay two payments of $5,000 for “Legal Expense Donation[s]“-
Thanks, Boss. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) recently gave Michael Aaron Lay $10,000 to beat back voter fraud charges brought while the former campaign aide worked for the now-Member.
According to recent Federal Election Commission filings, McHenry gave Lay $5,000 out of his political action committee, More Conservatives PAC, in two payments during February and March.
The contributions were labeled “legal expense donation[s].” McHenry had given Lay another $10,000 in July 2007.
Actually, Roll Call was behind the scenes- according to government watchdog OpenSecrets.org, More Conservatives PAC gave Michael Aaron Lay a total of $20,000- more money than the PAC gave to any individual except for a political advertising group. Michael Aaron Lay was given more money by More Conservatives PAC than any campaign in the history of the PAC.
Of course,when McHenry was confronted about this in the 2008 primary battle, his spokesman, Wes Climer, had this to say:
Climer emphasized the “More Conservatives” PAC is used broadly and isn’t specifically for campaign funds.
“The charges were dismissed, and the congressman is glad Aaron can move on with his life,” Climer said.
Actually, this is a lie. Michael Aaron Lay took what is called a “deferred prosecution deal” and did not contest the charges- and he must complete 100 hours of community service and pay $240.50 in court fees and $250.00 in community service fees to have the charges dismissed. By utilizing this deal, Lay was able to not only avoid admitting guilt, but avoid any further investigation into the McHenry camp’s dealings- which may explain the money that flowed toward Lay during this time.
Of course, More Conservatives PAC has given donors no information about the use of their money. Despite records proving that such money was indeed given, the website still claims the funds are used in “electing More Conservatives to Congress“- with no mention of “broad use” of donated funds. As mentioned above, more money has gone to paying for Michael Aaron Lay’s defense than towards ANY campaign recipient- and that’s saying something.
Of course, during this time, Patrick McHenry made himself a national laughingstock as he accused District Attorney Locke Bell of persecuting Lay and his own campaign:
“This is the culmination of a three-year smear campaign against Congressman McHenry, his campaign workers and supporters,” Deans’ statement read. “This case is much like the Duke lacrosse case in that a politically-motivated district attorney sought an indictment against a young man without even granting him an interview.”
Locke Bell, a strong Republican, supported McHenry- in fact, so much, that he held a fundraiser for him, and openly admitted to doing so in the Charlotte Observer. In fact, it was impossible for Bell to hold a “three year smear campaign” when Bell had only been a District Attorney for a few months, and “inhereted” the case from his predecessor. Meaning? Not only had Bell not had the time to even consider McHenry until a few months before this all came out, Bell was supporting McHenry! Of course, leave it up to the Democrats to find this out and make all Republicans look incredibly stupid.
It’s a sad day when a Republican Congressman makes us all look stupid and even the Democrats get to laugh.