McCrory taking advantage of loopholes in state ethics laws

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Progress NC Action submits public comment on closing ethics loopholes

RALEIGH – Progress NC Action today submitted public comment to the NC State Ethics Commission regarding proposed changes to the NC ethics laws. In particular, Progress NC Action takes issue with the disclosure requirements for candidate Statements of Economic Interest and the definition of lobbyist. In the most glaring example, Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory has exploited both of these disclosure loopholes.

“In an attempt to shield his financial ties to special interests and avoid registering as a lobbyist, Pat McCrory has taken advantage of loopholes in our ethics laws,” said Gerrick Brenner, Executive Director of Progress NC Action. “We believe that the Ethics Commission should move towards closing ethics loopholes.”

The Ethics Commission is holding a public hearing this morning for comment on proposed changes to ethics rules.

The Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) that all candidates must submit to the Board of Elections requires disclosure of any income sources greater than $5,000 in the previous year. However, financial ties between clients and providers are not disclosed, but hidden within salary from the employee’s firm. In McCrory’s case, he reports income from the law and lobbying firm Moore & Van Allen, but does not disclose the names of those clients.

That loophole invites flagrant abuse and can lead to undetected conflicts of interest. Clearly, any type of consultant or service provider’s financial well-being is tied directly to their clients who pay their salary indirectly. Progress NC Action is requesting the NC State Ethics Commission to consider requiring disclosure of client-provider relationships for any client that contracts with or is regulated by the State of North Carolina.

In McCrory’s case, we know that the American Petroleum Institute – which has a stake in the regulation of fracking – is a client of his lobbying firm. If McCrory becomes governor he would be in a position to regulate that industry and appoint members to the rule-making Mining and Energy Commission. That is a conflict of interest which demands disclosure.

Progress NC Action also called on the Ethics Commission to consider a broader definition of contract lobbying. The current law defines a lobbyist – who must register with the Secretary of State – as someone who “Contracts for payment for lobbying.” We believe that definition is too narrow.

In Pat McCrory’s case, he is employed as a public policy consultant, who advises clients on government affairs strategy and he also admits that he regularly speaks with legislative leadership. Clearly, Pat McCrory is being paid by clients for his influence. That in of itself isn’t illegal, but it demands disclosure. We as a people need to know who our candidates have financial ties to and who has been paid to influence government policy.

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