Dana Cope is the Executive Director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC). In his position with SEANC, he is expected to interact with North Carolina state legislators to protect the interests of state employees and retirees. SEANC lobbies politicians through its SuperPAC, the Employees Political Action Committee (EMPAC), by publicly endorsing certain candidates and in some cases even running advertisements on their behalf. Before an election, a committee of state employees generally sits down and conducts interviews with political candidates to determine how their political leanings align with issues important to state employees. From these interviews the committee is able to make its endorsements.
Dana Cope and the SEANC make endorsements by staying loyal to the rights and interests of state employees rather than being loyal to any particular political party. This means that SEANC endorsements are generally bi-partisan, which allows them to work with both parties in the North Carolina General Assembly to have a say in new legislation. The SEANC’s track record of working across the aisle was recognized in 2011 during a dispute over payroll collection of dues.
An article in the News and Observer explained that at the time, the North Carolina Republican-led General Assembly interacted differently with two different employee unions. The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), which is the state’s main lobbying group for teachers, was ignored by state legislators as they worked on a bill that would bar payroll deduction of dues for NCAE members. However, members of SEANC were actually asked to participate in key negotiations over dues checkoff for SEANC members.
Dana Cope and SEANC managed to have a say in the legislature’s activities due to the goodwill it had earned from endorsing Republican candidates including 2004 gubernatorial candidate Patrick Ballantine.
As long as SEANC is led by Dana Cope, the organization will continue to maintain a bi-partisan working relationship with elected officials.