State N.C. Rep Mark Hilton announced Tuesday he was not going to seek re-election in 2012, saying he wants to spend more time with his young family.
Hilton, a Catawba County Republican, has said that two loans totaling $165,000 in federal money he got from fellow GOP lawmaker Stephen LaRoque had nothing to do with his decision. Hilton used the loan money to buy 41 mobile homes, and the two indicated to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that the money would create one job and retain two more. The USDA provided the money as part of its Intermediary Relending Program, a small lending program that seeks to fight poverty by trying to stimulate the economy in rural areas. Hilton spoke at length about his decision not to run with The Observer News Enterprise, a small community newspaper in Catawba County.
From the Observer News article:
As Hilton said his decision is driven by a need to help his wife Allison raise children ages 8, 6 and 4, he also denies that the published results from a recent investigation by N.C. Policy Watch motivated his decision.
Hilton received two, low-interest U.S. Department of Agriculture loans valued at a combined $165,000 through Republican N.C. Rep. Stephen LaRoque’s non-profit economic development company, Piedmont Development Company, according to the organization operated by the N.C. Justice Center.
Hilton told The O-N-E he used those loans to purchase mobile homes that his company, Hilton Ventures, was managing at the time. The real estate deal helped supplement income he made as a part-time legislator and his occupation as a police officer.
“I got the loans in 2007, and Stephen LaRoque wasn’t in the House at the time,” Hilton said of the current co-chair of the N.C. House Rules Committee, who was voted out of office in 2006, but re-elected in 2010.
“Stephen, at one time, was in the House, and I met him there. Then when I was looking to get the loan, another friend of mine in the state House recommended Stephen and said he was trying to get his business off the ground.”
Hilton re-iterated that LaRoque was not a legislator at the time he sought the loan.
“I know it is all legal,” he said. “There are no special favors or anything. It is completely above board.”
Hilton said he obtained the $165,000 through LaRoque’s company as commercial business loans with terms of six years and an interest rate of about 6 percent. He also said he and his father put up their homes as collateral for the loans.
“We have all but less than a third paid back,” he said of the loan, adding the lender is “making money off of us.”
With proceeds from the loan, Hilton said he purchased mobile homes.