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Big business investment in big lobbying in North Carolina appears to be paying dividends

We’ve already covered the revolving door of lawmakers resigning from the General Assembly only to return to Raleigh a few months later. Former House Majority Leader Mike Hager started his own lobbying firm, Hager Strategic Solutions, shortly after his ‘cooling off period.’ Former house rules chairman, Tom Apodaca registered as a lobbyist in 2017 and started his firm, Vista Strategies. He has already amassed clients including Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, and the North Carolina Cable Telecommunications Network. Thom Goolsby also has his own firm, with clients including the NC Small Business Association and the Education Freedom Alliance.

In order to get a sense of exactly how much money lobbyists were funneling into North Carolina, we looked at reports issued by the Secretary of State from 2007-2016. In 2016, $45,307,721.63 was spent on lobbyists in North Carolina. This number is striking because, despite the fact that 2016 was an election year and therefore a “short” session, it is only a few hundred dollars fewer than 2013 spending and well exceeds 2014 levels. In 2015, more than $49 million was spent on lobbying the North Carolina General Assembly, compared to the just over $20 million spent just five years earlier. The overall trend is clear. Moneyed interests are spending more and more on lobbying the North Carolina legislature.

NC Lobbying Expenditures 2007-2016

 

Since 2007, spending on lobbying has increased $23 million dollars, with a spike in spending occurring in 2011 (which coincides with when Republicans took control of the House and Senate for the first time in 140 years). 

Principal Expenditure Reports 2007-2016

Year

Dollars Spent

2016

$45,307,721.63

2015

$49,126,029.91

2014

$41,878,750.00

2013

$45,813,689.74

2012

$37,835,306.35

2011

$39,038,183.26

2010

$20,835,020.57

2009

$23,753,583.74

2008

$18,191,472.49

2007

$22,083,014.20

And it seems like this increased lobbying is paying off for big business This session the General Assembly voted in favor of a bill, written to aid a subsidiary of the Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods, that capped the amount of money people could receive in nuisance lawsuits against agricultural operations. A Duplin County resident put the reason for that type of lawsuit this way: “It’s pig poop and pee in the air blowing around, it corrodes paint on cars. It erodes screens in windows. It prevents going outside. Little kids haven’t had birthday parties outside forever.” House Republicans who voted in favor of the bill received $272,000 from pork-related donors. Bill Sponsor Rep. Jimmy Dixon received $36,250 from donors associated with Murphy-Brown, the Smithfield Foods subsidiary.

The 2016 “Duke Bailout Bill” looks like further evidence that the increase millions spent lobbying is paying off – even after NC faced one of the biggest coal ash spills in history, the General Assemblies response was a bill that would allow Duke Energy to raise rates on North Carolinians in order to clean up their coal ash mess – passing the estimated billions of dollars in clean up costs on to the eletric bill of working NC families. The 2013 a regulatory reform bill let Republicans clear the way for Duke to get away with avoiding coal ash cleanup after lobbyists gave $95,000 to Republican legislators.

It seems clear that with politicans willing to give them whatever they want, investing in lobbying is paying off for big business.