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Former House Speaker-turned lobbyist Harold Brubaker

Former House Speaker and current top-ranked lobbyist Harold Brubaker – Photo: NC General Assembly

The North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research is a fine and venerable organization that has done many great services to the state. Moreover, its commitment to sober and thorough research in which the focus is on getting things right more than getting them fast is a welcome departure from the norm in today’s hyper-fast-paced policy environment.

That said, here’s a vote for doing away with one of the organization’s signature products — its annual “rankings” of lobbyists and lawmakers.

Every year (or at least it seems like every year anyway — I’m actually not sure how often these darned things come out ), the Center releases the results of surveys it conducts of the denizens of the state Legislative Building on the “effectiveness” of lawmakers and lobbyists. The results are then converted into a “rankings” system and released with much fanfare. Think of it as a kind of once-per-year AP Top 25 football team poll for politicos. Today, the Center released its lobbyist list.

It’s hard to pinpoint what’s most offensive about the rankings. Maybe it’s the use of the word “effectiveness,” which as a practical matter, has come to mean “power and influence.” Surprise! This year, the “most effective” lobbyist is former House Speaker and ALEC chairman emeritus-turned corporate mouthpiece Harold Brubaker. Similarly, last spring’s rankings touted Phil Berger and Thom Tillis as the “most effective” legislators. What a shocker that was! (I mean, who’s kidding who? Saying Harold Brubaker is “more effective” than some underpaid nonprofit advocate for sick kids or the environment is like seriously reporting that Florida State has a “more effective” football team than N.C. Central.)

Maybe it’s the notion Read More

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It kind of feels like dispensing praise for not robbing a bank, but hey, in today’s North Carolina political world , we’ll take what we can get.

Accordingly, the House of Representatives deserves a sincere ‘attaboy and ‘attagirl for passing legislation this week to require electronic records filing by most local and state candidates and political committees. The provision was watered down somewhat and doesn’t go into effect for three years, but it’s better than nothing. As the good people at the Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform noted with justifiable pride:

“The North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform is commends the NC House for passing a bill today to require electronic filing of campaign reports.  All political campaigns and committees raising and/or spending more than $5,000 will be required to submit electronic reports to the NC Board of Elections beginning January 1, 2017.

The Coalition has been working for over five years to get electronic filing which will make it easier for citizens to see how much money candidates raise and from whom.  It will save the state money because state employees will no longer have to key in data from handwritten or typed reports.
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mcblog2In a lengthy and, at times, awkward and disjointed press conference, Gov. Pat McCrory said today that he would sign House Bill 589 — the controversial bill to alter state voting and elections laws. The bill, which was originally about imposing new voter ID requirements but morphed this week into an omnibus 57 page proposal to restrict voting in numerous ways, was passed by the House late last night  and will be presented to the Governor on Monday.

What was perhaps the saddest and most illuminating moment of the press conference, however, came when a reporter asked the Governor about some of the less-thoroughly-publicized portions of the bill. After testily dismissing a question about a provision on lobbyist “bundling” of campaign contributions because the reporter noted that it had been spurred by allegations against the Governor’s former law firm and erroneously saying that North Carolinians can register to vote “online,” McCrory addressed a question about the bill’s language to do away with the current successful program to pre-register 16 and 17 year olds. Here’s what the Guv said:

“I don’t know enough…I’m sorry, I haven’t seen that part of the bill.”

Got that? Governor McCrory has already decided to sign a bill — one of the most important and dangerous bills to come down the pike in years — and he is not even aware of one of the more controversial provisions — a provision that was debated at length this week multiple times!

C’mon Guv: We know you’re still relatively new to this job, but the least you could do is spend a little time with staff preparing for these press events and maybe even reading the bills you’re defending to the media and the public!

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Thom TillisIn 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: Read More

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The Fayetteville Observer gets it right this morning with this editorial about the recent resignations of powerful state legislators Harold Brubaker and Richard Stevens who quickly moved to cash in the world of political consulting and lobbying.

“Nobody’s doing anything illegal or, technically, anything wrong. They’re playing it by the book. Trouble is, the book still allows legislators to easily cash in on their power, and also allows lobbying firms to dangle the promise of big jobs to get their way with legislation.

The six-month cooling-off period is more a joke than real reform. We hope the General Assembly will try again.”

The only thing they forgot to add at the end that would have made the editorial completely accurate was the following:

“…but we’re not holding our breath.”