McCrory's 'retreat' with donors raises funds and eyebrows

June 24, 2013 

Oh, it’s not a candidate fundraiser. Nooooo, of course not, says John Lassiter, a close friend of Gov. Pat McCrory’s and chairman of the Renew North Carolina Foundation, host of a retreat for 100 to 150 corporate representatives and wealthy donors at the luxurious Grandover Resort outside Greensboro.

Now, sure, tickets to the entire retreat are $5,000 a head, but, heck, these are not the types of people who are going to be satisfied with a No. 1 from McDonald’s. If you’ve got five grand to lay out for dinner and golf, your palate is entirely too sensitive for fare enjoyed by the ... well, the little people.

What McCrory and his gang aren’t too sensitive about is how this looks to all the people who don’t have $5,000 for a weekend and who voted for McCrory as the man who was going to fix what he said was a broken state government and return control and money to the people.

It appears control is being returned to the people – the ones with a spare $5,000 for a golf outing.

Appearance of buying access

This event, particularly with the governor in attendance, has all the appearances of the well-connected and wealthy buying special access. It gives them a chance to give the governor and his people a rundown of what they’d like to see McCrory and Republicans in charge of this embarrassing edition of the General Assembly do to further the cause of the wealthy and well-connected.

Jack Hawke, McCrory’s silver-tongued campaign manager and a foundation board member, said the meeting is “a discussion on major issues facing the state and a round of golf and that’s about it.” And it just happens, no doubt, that the money received will provide a nice bank account for the foundation to sponsor other such noble gatherings, which coincidentally will help rich people and special interest groups build relationships with Gov. McCrory.

To hear 2008 and 2012 gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory tell it, the Democratic Party had broken every branch of government, every public trust and probably every dish in the Legislative Building cafeteria. He promised efficiency and honesty in government and no more shenanigans like those performed by sneaky ol’ Democrats, who practiced the politics of cronyism and special interests and didn’t listen to the people at all.

Indeed, the Democrats long in power in the General Assembly did push their own agenda without bothering to consider other ideas. And they did raise huge sums of money to give to other candidates to help them hold on to their power. They did cater to lobbyists. And they did treat Republicans as virtually invisible.

McCrory’s vision

But McCrory conjured a vision of a different kind of government, one open to the people, responsive and not obsessed with taking care of political allies.

Instead, Republican leaders in the General Assembly have engaged in almost endless payback, against public school teachers, public education itself, poor people and the unemployed.For his part, McCrory has stood by and watched them, showing little independence or leadership.

Now, in going to this “retreat,” he caters to powerful special interest groups and big donors who will also presumably be around in 2016 when the governor likely will be seeking a second term.

Under campaign finance laws, this foundation can raise unlimited money from anyone, including lobbyists and corporations, and it doesn’t have to disclose its contributors. That makes for closed-door, special-access discussions, and it’s a safe bet that special interests’ representatives aren’t going to talk about how he handled the long par 3 with the water hazard.

Secrecy, special interests, big money. Just how is this different from the system candidate McCrory said was broken?

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