Under the Dome

Hagan schmoozes with big-money lobbyists

February 3, 2010 

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan was among a dozen Democratic senators who spent last weekend in Miami Beach raising money from lobbyists for oil, drug and other corporate interests.

Hagan was attended the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's winter retreat at the Ritz Carlton South Beach Resort, according to an invitation to the event obtained by the Web site Politico. The event's program listed a couple of receptions and large blocks of time set aside for "informal conversations with senators."

Hagan's office did not offer a response Tuesday when asked about the retreat.

As Politico notes, the senators were meeting with an interesting group: "Across the table was a who's who of 108 senior Washington lobbyists, including the top lobbying officials for many of the industries Democrats regularly attack: Represented were the American Bankers Association, the tobacco company Altria, the oil company Marathon, several drug manufacturers, the defense contractor Lockheed, and most of the large independent lobbying firms: Ogilvy, BGR, Quinn Gillespie, Heather Podesta, and Tony Podesta."

Republicans are also planning a similar Florida retreat in the spring where contributors can play golf, go fishing and mingle with Republican senators.

'No' votes on parkland

The Republicans on the Council of State - Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry and Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler - voiced their opposition to the state buying property while North Carolina was in a recession.

During a meeting Tuesday, Berry and Troxler cast votes against the purchase of land to expand Chimney Rock State Park and Bear Paw State Natural Area and to purchase land for a new education building at Appalachian State University.

Berry said it was "irresponsible" to approve the purchases when the state is paying out so much money for unemployment insurance.

Troxler said it was "time to hunker down."

The purchases were easily approved by the Democratic majority of the panel of executive branch officials.

Toyota floor mats out

The state wants the floor mats removed from its 17 Toyotas in response to the recall related to acceleration problems with the automaker's vehicles.

The state's Toyotas are all hybrid Prius models, and 11 are permanently assigned to state employees, according to a news release from the N.C. Department of Administration, which oversees the Motor Fleet Management division. The division has told the 11 employees to remove the floor mats.

Toyota says the floor mats should be removed on thePriuses until problems with the accelerator pedal can be fixed.

Toyota has not recommended additional safety inspections for the vehicles at this time, said Motor FleetDirector John Massey. He added that no mishaps have been reported with the vehicles.

Motor Fleet purchased 17 of the hybrid vehicles in 2007 and 2008. Eleven are permanently assigned, and the balance are available for use through the Motor Pool. No other Toyota models are in the state fleet.

By staff writers Benjamin Niolet and Rob Christensen

ben.niolet@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4521

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