Dome: Another group cuts ties with lobbyist linked to Tillis staffer

jfrank@newsobserver.comMay 3, 2012 

The fallout from romantic relationships between lobbyists and top staffers in House Speaker Thom Tillis’ office continues.

On Tuesday, the Coastal Conservation Association cut ties with contract lobbyist Dean Plunkett a day after Tillis disclosed a relationship with one of his staffers, Amy Hobbs, who is expected to resign this week.

The association asked for Plunkett’s resignation and he submitted it, said Executive Director Stephen Ammons. “We have requested and received Dean Plunkett’s resignation,” Ammons said. “Our organization was unaware of the situation that Speaker Tillis referenced on Tuesday. CCA has never received special treatment from the speaker’s office or anyone else at the General Assembly.”

Plunkett also resigned as lobbyist for the state’s hospice association after being told his contact was terminated.

Last week, Tillis’ chief of staff, Charles Thomas, resigned after The N&O confronted him about his romantic relationship with a lobbyist for the N.C. Home Builders Association, Jessica B. Hayes. She also turned in her resignation at the request of the association’s executive vice president.

Faison’s loan vanishes

When state Rep. Bill Faison, a wealthy trial lawyer, was trying to get people to take his campaign seriously back in January, he told reporters that he had loaned his campaign $500,000.

But what he didn’t say is that the campaign had repaid nearly all of the loans two days later, according to a campaign finance report he filed this week.

On Jan. 4, when Faison was mulling a Democratic primary challenge to Gov. Bev Perdue, Faison said he had loaned his campaign a half million dollars. At the time, Faison said the money would go to support Democrats, but he refused to provide specifics.

“I think it’s important to show a commitment to the process,” Faison said. “And to win back the legislature and keep the governor’s office blue.” When Perdue announced she was not running, he entered the governor’s race.

Faison loaned his committee account $506,654 on Jan. 1, according to campaign reports made public this week. On Jan. 3, his campaign repaid Faison $505,000.

So by Jan. 3, his personal loan to the campaign was $1,564 – far less than the half million dollars that was the impression he gave reporters.

Romney PAC to air ads

North Carolina is one of nine swing states that will begin to see TV ads Thursday paid for by the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future.

The group plans to run $3.7 million in ads in North Carolina, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and New Hampshire, MSNBC reports.

It also bought $143,000 in the Greenville, S.C., market that is apparently really aimed at North Carolina voters.

It is not clear what the ad will say. But it comes at a time when multiple polls show the former Massachusetts governor is trailing President Barack Obama in a state that Republicans feel they must win.

The president was in Chapel Hill last week.

Ellmers’ fine line

Congresswoman Renee Ellmers’ new TV ad is walking a fine line when it comes to her stance on marriage.

Ellmers, a freshman Republican facing three primary challengers, spoke out against North Carolina’s marriage amendment earlier this year, saying she would vote against it. But in the 30-second TV ad the narrator says Ellmers “fights for traditional marriage.” (See the ad at

Her spokesman had the same line earlier this year when acknowledging she’d vote against and doesn’t oppose civil unions. (“She has and will continue to protect and defend marriage at the federal level,” the aide said.)

The statements draw a distinction at the federal and state level when it comes to banning gay marriage. But will voters see the nuance as genuine, or will they think she’s talking out of both sides of her mouth?

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