In North Carolina, state laws written in the post-Jim Black era (see in particular G.S. 138A-32) make it illegal for lobbyists to give anything of value to state legislators. As a general matter, the state has a “no cup of coffee” rule; lobbyists can’t buy legislators a round of golf or a lunch or even a mocha latte.
Unfortunately, there remain lots of ways around this prohibition in which lobbyists can funnel cash to powerful politicians. And make no mistake, many politicians aren’t shy about explaining this to lobbyists.
Consider the latest fundraising solicitation from House Speaker Thom Tillis (pictured at left) and the North Carolina Republican House Caucus.
After inviting all-comers to pay up to $10,000 to get 12 admission tickets and a special photo opportunity with House leaders at the group’s 2013 “Opening Day Celebration” tomorrow, the solicitation says the following:
“The North Carolina Republican House Caucus is a fund of the North Carolina Republican Party, which must comply with NC and Federal election laws. Election laws require political parties to report the name, mailing address, job title or profession and name of employer’s specific field for each individual whose contribution aggregate is in excess of $50 in an election. Election laws also prohibit any corporation, business entity, labor union, professional association, or insurance company from contributing. Only United States Citizens and Permanent Residents are allowed to make contributions. Lobbyists registered in North Carolina are not prohibited from contributing to the NC Republican House Caucus. Contributions or in-kind contributions are not deductible as charitable contributions for state or federal income tax purposes.” (Emphasis supplied).
Got that? Despite North Carolina’s “no cup of coffee” law, House Republicans are specifically asking the people who will lobby them during this year’s legislative session to give them as much as $10,000 to attend an event at the swanky Cardinal Club and get their picture snapped with Speaker Tillis.
Anyone who thinks that such contributors will not then enjoy special access to Tillis and his team during the 2013 session is, of course, experiencing a delusional dream.
It’s going to be a long, long session.