by Lisa Sorg
Tsk, tsk, Thom.
The Carolina Mercury's Kirk Ross posted a fascinating story about the fundraising habits of House Speaker Thom Tillis, who is courting donors for 2014 U.S. Senate campaign.
As Ross notes, state lawmakers can't accept contributions for their state offices during a legislative session but they can raise money for federal offices, which is precisely what Tillis did—in the midst of the budget debate. Legal? Yes. Hinky? Also yes.
Ross names some big contributors to Tillis' Senate race, including DENR Secretary John Skvarla and several House members, Pat McElraft, Tim Moore and Chuck McGrady, according to federal election documents.
The INDY perused the documents as well and recognized the name of Raleigh attorney Tom Farr ($500). He is notable for his expertise in legislative apportionment and voting rights cases—on the side of Republicans—as the INDY's Bob Geary reported in January 2010.
In 2010, Farr was hired by the Republican majority of the Wake County school board, which at the time was under fire for drawing up new school assignment zones that faced a potential legal challenge by the NAACP.
Geary wrote: "Farr was lead counsel for some of the plaintiffs in Shaw v. Hunt, the 1990s case that landed North Carolina's gerrymandered congressional districts before the U.S. Supreme Court. A decade later, Farr represented the plaintiffs who overthrew a state legislative districting scheme in the N.C. Supreme Court.
"Drawing up districts, and defending them against challenges of racial bias under the federal Voting Rights Act, would be right up his alley."
And whaddya know? HB 589—the ominbus election reform bill deemed repressive, draconian and extreme by legal experts, political media and "regressive" by N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper—completely upended all notions of fair and equal voting protocols in North Carolina.
Tillis voted for HB 589.
Ross noted that two contributors, the National Finance Company, based in Little River, S.C., which is near the N.C border, gave $1,000; Century Finances' Ronald Smith kicked in $500.
That's important because Senate Bill 489 gave big breaks to the consumer finance industry, allowing it to raise the maximum loan amounts and the time limits of the loans. In other words, borrowers will have to pay more and for longer. Tillis voted for it.
Another prominent name in the news includes Julian White Rawl ($1,000) of Preston Development, which is trying to build a controversial 7,000-acre mixed use development, Chatham Park, near Pittsboro.