N&O’s Thomas affair editorial: On and off the mark

Raleigh’s News & Observer editorialized on the Charles Thomas affair this morning. The paper — rightfully it seems — called for more forthcoming statements from House Speaker Tillis on his roommate’s romantic relationship with a powerful lobbyist.

At one point in the editorial, however, there is an overly-generous characterization of what the law allows and doesn’t allow when it comes to lobbyists and legislative employees.

According to the N&O:

“Legislative employees are not supposed to accept anything of value from lobbyists in exchange for official action. Thomas apparently didn’t do that, and the rules on ‘in exchange for official action’ are pretty wide open to interpretation.”

What the paper is describing is bribery — which is obviously banned.

But the law goes further than that. G.S. 138A-32(c) says the following:

“No public servant, legislator, or legislative employee shall knowingly accept a gift from a lobbyist or lobbyist principal registered under Chapter 120C of the General Statutes.”

Got that? No gifts -period. A gift is defined, with a few exceptions, as anything of monetary value given without valuable consideration.

Discovering whether such gifts were bestowed on Mr. Thomas would seem like a logical first step for Speaker Tillis and ethics investigators. This would be a violation of the law whether or not Thomas engaed in any official action in return for such gifts.  


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