More than a year after his death, a cache of computer files saved on the hard drives of Thomas Hofeller, a prominent Republican redistricting strategist, is becoming public.
Republican state lawmakers in North Carolina fought in court to keep copies of these maps, spreadsheets and other documents from entering the public record. But some files have already come to light in recent months through court filings and news reports.
They have been cited as evidence of gerrymandering that got political maps thrown out in North Carolina, and they have raised questions about Hofeller’s role in the Trump administration’s failed push for a census citizenship question.
Now more of the files are available online through a website called The Hofeller Files, where Hofeller’s daughter, Stephanie Hofeller, published a link to her copy of the files on Sunday after first announcing her plans in a tweet last month.
“These are matters that concern the people and their franchise and their access to resources. This is, therefore, the property of the people,” Hofeller told NPR. “I won’t be satisfied that we the people have found everything until we the people have had a look at it in its entirety.”
Stephanie then reconnected with her mother, Kathleen, and visited her parents’ apartment in North Carolina, where she found four external hard drives and a clear plastic bag containing 18 USB thumb drives in her father’s room. Stephanie says her mother encouraged her to take the devices.
It turned out they were filled with photos of Stephanie with her children and other personal items — as well as files from her father’s work as a redistricting consultant for Republicans.
While looking for an attorney to represent her mother in 2018, Stephanie says she connected with the North Carolina chapter of Common Cause, an advocacy group that had brought a lawsuit against Republican state officials to overturn political maps Thomas Hofeller helped draw. After mentioning the hard drives to Common Cause, Stephanie received a court order to turn them over as potential evidence for the lawsuit. She did so in March after making a copy of some of the files for herself.
Since then, the Hofeller files have led to bombshell developments in two major legal battles in the political world.
In September, Common Cause won its legal challenge to political maps in North Carolina, where a state court cited some of the files as evidence of gerrymandering designed to unfairly give Republicans an advantage in winning elections and maintaining control of the state legislature.
For her part, Stephanie says she’s committed to transparency with the public in case she gets access to any more of her father’s files.
“If I were to find something,” she says, “I would most certainly share it.”
There is a whole lot of slime found underneath those rocks.