As anyone who happened to glance at the front page of this past Sunday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer probably noticed, former North Carolina House Speaker and Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Brubaker has gotten through the almost meaningless six-month “cooling off period” during which former legislators are barred from lobbying their old chums. He now appears ready to make a big splash as a high-powered lobbyist.
Already, Brubaker has signed up nine separate clients for Brubaker and Associates for the 2013 legislative session that begins in earnest tomorrow. Some lobbyists represent more “principals” than this, however, so it wouldn’t be surprising if this number grew in the days to come.
Most of the nine are about who you would expect: insurance companies, doctor groups, the beer and wine lobby and, as is frequently the case for big shot “lobsters,” the requisite nonprofit client. One client that many would not have predicted, however, is this one: the Community Financial Services Association of America. You see, the CFSAA is not your typical corporate lobbying client; the industry on whose behalf it speaks — the predatory “payday” lender crowd — has not actually been allowed to do business in North Carolina since it got chased away more than a decade ago.
How’s that for a sobering development for our state? The former Speaker of the North Carolina House is now slumming to represent one of the most pernicious businesses in the country — an “industry” that specializes in making two-week loans to desperate, down-on-their-luck consumers at annual interest rates of 300-400%. His presumed purpose: to make the industry legal once more in North Carolina.
Of course, when one thinks about this for a moment, it actually shouldn’t be too surprising. In addition to his other posts, Brubaker spent decades serving on and occasionally chairing the House Financial Services Committee in its various iterations — a place where he undoubtedly had many opportunities to become quite familiar with the payday industry and the folks who represent it.
In short, it’s the age-old story with which we’ve all become too familiar in government: The revolving door of the one-time regulator getting a lucrative contract to represent the industry he/she once regulated.