Business groups contribute to GOP leadership

FROM STAFF REPORTSMay 31, 2011 

Business groups have poured money into the campaigns of the Republican leadership, many of whom are championing their agenda in the halls of the legislature.

Since 2007, Senate leader Phil Berger has taken $448,331 in political contributions from business groups and executives, while House Speaker Thom Tillis has taken in $218,300 from such groups, according to state campaign finance records.

Many other key Republican leaders have also received heavy business contributions.

But that does not differ greatly from their Democratic predecessors, Senate leader Marc Basnight and House Speaker Joe Hackney.

Some examples since 2007:

Duke Energy has given $18,000 to Hackney, $14,000 to Basnight, $8,000 to Berger, and $11,000 to Tillis.

Bank of America has given $20,000 to Hackney, $16,000 to Basnight, $10,000 to Tillis and $4,000 to Berger.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield gave $15,000 to Basnight, $8,000 to Hackney, $8,000 to Tillis and $5,500 to Berger.

Finance companies

The finance industry sharply increased its campaign contributions during the 2010 election cycle.

Individuals and political action committees gave $172,320 to legislative campaigns, compared to $30,250 in the 2008 election cycle, according to an analysis by Democracy North Carolina, a campaign watchdog group.

In the closing months of the 2010 election, the finance industry made a coordinated effort to donate tens of thousands of dollars into the campaigns of 15 Republicans newcomers challenging Democrats, the group reports.

During the last election, the consumer finance industry donors gave most of their contributions to Democratic legislators until late August 2010. Then they switched and gave nearly all of their donations to Republicans newcomers or to three GOP leaders, the group found.

"The industry made a substantial gamble in 2010 by shifting its money from incumbent Democrats to Republican challengers and now appears to be reaping the benefits of that investment with a bill to enrich the industry," said Bob Hall, director of Democracy North Carolina.

At the time the industry switched from giving to Democrats to giving to Republicans, it was becoming increasingly likely to many observers that Republicans would win control of one or both houses of the General Assembly.

The widespread switch suggested a coordinated giving effort by the industry. Harry Melton, president of Amity Finance in Gastonia, told Hall that he based his donations on the recommendations of industry lobbyists.

House Speaker Thom Tillis and Republican Majority Leader Paul Stam received nothing from consumer finance donors for the 2010 election until August. After that they received nearly three dozen industry-related contributions, totaling $13,950 for Stam and $13,250 for Tillis.

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