Morning Memo: More money, more problems for Thom Tillis

Posted by John Frank on April 2, 2014 

A refrain is developing in the U.S. Senate race: The more money Thom Tillis comes across, the more problems he sees.

The House speaker is attending a fundraiser Wednesday at the offices of a Washington lobbying firm that will net him plenty of big checks but also may offer his rivals a political line of attack.

The firm? Barbour Griffith & Rogers Inc., otherwise known as the BGR Group. Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour took flak for his firm, as critics linked him to its many clients. One particular client drew attention: the Mexican government. In 2001-2002, the firm lobbied “on immigration reforms sought by the Bush administration to provide a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants and expand a temporary worker program to allow immigrants to work in the U.S,” according to an Associated Press report.

Tillis’ fundraiser at the firm plays into the hands of Republican primary opponents Greg Brannon and Mark Harris, who are trying to paint Tillis as an insider with ties to special interests. (Democrats are doing the same.)

Brannon also has criticized Tillis on immigration, writing earlier this year in a Facebook post: “If Republicans want to re-take control of the US Senate we cannot nominate a candidate who will go along with the DC establishment and push through amnesty. My primary opponent has supported efforts to allow illegal immigrants to skirt immigration laws. We must have respect for the rule of law. I will never vote for amnesty.”

Brannon did not offer specifics to support his claim. But legislation to crackdown on illegal immigration in recent years failed in the N.C. House under Tillis’ control. Gov. Pat McCrory also vetoed a bill – later overridden in the House and Senate – that expanded the exemption of seasonal workers from the immigration status check program called E-Verify.

Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw said the campaign is trying to raise the money necessary to beat Democrat Kay Hagan and is not concerned about the perception of raising money at Barbour’s firm. “I think the speaker has shown a pretty clear track record of leading his own agenda,” Shaw said. “When you’re running a successful campaign you’re going to be attacked by your opponents.”

Barbour is scheduled to attend the lunch fundraiser, which has $500 minimum contribution. Other hosts listed: Dave Boyer, Lanny Griffith, Ryan Long, Loren Monroe, Dan Murphy, Erskine Wells and Bob Wood.

*** Get more exclusive North Carolina political news and analysis below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory is spending the day in Maryland, an unannounced trip with reasons unknown. The only clue is provided in his public schedule for Wednesday, which lists a 11:30 a.m. visit to the Naval Academy in Annapolis and a 2 p.m. visit to Walter Reed Medical Center. The governor’s office did not immediately respond to questions about the purpose of the trip.

Two major oversight committees meet Wednesday: unemployment insurance at 10 a.m. in room 544 of the legislative office building and elections at noon in the same room.

The information technology oversight panel is taking a field trip to ITS Western Data Center and the Facebook data center.

#NCSEN ---

BIG PICTURE ON CROSSROADS AD: From National Journal -- The Newer, Softer Iteration of American Crossroads. Read more here. RELATED: From Washington Post -- North Carolina flooded with ads. Read more here.

BRANNON CAMP RESPONSE TO PRO-TILLIS CROSSROADS AD: “You’ll notice it makes no mention of repealing Obamacare which would take real guts and surprisingly it even references the same radio interview in which Thom says Obamacare is a great idea that can’t be paid for. What I’m not at all surprised to see is an ad touting his conservative credentials launch on April 1st of all days. Seems fitting,” said campaign manager Reilly O'Neal in an email.

TAKE A LOOK: Greg Brannon mailer features baby, talks abortion. Read more here.

THE EIGHT STATES LIKELY TO FLIP SENATE SEATS TO GOP: North Carolina is not on this expert’s list. Read why here.

HEALTH CARE SIGN UPS -- WILL IT SAVE DEMS? "The debate over repealing this law is over," Obama declared. Read more here.

MARK HARRIS A CLOSET UCONN FAN? Politwoops. See it here.

#NCPOL ---

THE BIG STORY -- Motion Picture Association commissions study showing that movie companies need tax incentives; says state would lose jobs: The loss of the state’s film incentives program would decimate the film and television production industry in North Carolina, causing an estimated 3,400 workers to move to more film-friendly states, according to a new study.

The study – conducted by Robert Handfield, a professor of supply chain management at N.C. State University working as a private consultant – also shows that North Carolina receives a positive return on investment from the money it pays out to film companies in incentives. Read more here.

MOVE ON TARGETS McCRORY ON MEDICAID: The liberal advocacy group MoveOn is sponsoring a billboard in April that calls on Gov. Pat McCrory to expand Medicaid. It reads: “Welcome to North Carolina. Where 318,000 people are denied health care because Governor McCrory refuses to expand Medicaid.”

It follows a $5,000 radio ad campaign on WPTF in Raleigh from March 17-30 urging the state to reverse course on its decision not to expand the program, as allowed under the federal health care law.

DUKE ENERGY DNEIES NC COAL ASH ALLEGATIONS: Duke Energy has denied in court documents filed Monday the environmental violations alleged in the state’s coal ash lawsuits against it.

The utility also filed a motion to remove a group of environmental organizations from the lawsuits, arguing they don’t have the legal authority to join the enforcement action. Alternately, the company asks if the judge hearing the cases decides the groups do have a right to join the suits, they be prohibited from expanding the claims already in the case. Read more here.

LAWMAKER USES COMMITTEE MEETING TO FIGHT BACK AGAINST AD: Rep. Trudy Wade of Greensboro is smarting from a TV ad campaign targeting pro-fracking legislators that began airing in the Triad this week.

She took the opportunity at a meeting Tuesday of the Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy to counter allegations made in the ad by the North Carolina Environmental Partnership. She asked Mining and Energy Commission chairman James Womack, who was there to update legislators on the progress of fracking regulations, to defend her.

The TV ad – a version of which ran in the Triangle earlier this month tailored to target Sen. Chad Barefoot – accuses her of fast-tracking fracking; which it says can pollute the air and water; claims benzene, silica and formaldehyde are used in the process; and says she is putting families at risk. She asked Womack to refute each of those allegations, and he did his best to comply.

Womack noted that he lives in the Triassic basin in the center of the state near the Triangle that is believed to hold reserves of natural gas. “I’m not going to do anything that puts my kids at risk,” he said. “… There’s a lot of hype and alarm flying around out there. The truth is we’re going to do what’s sound, good science and good engineering.”

JIMMY CARTER VISITING RALEIGH: “I saw how girls and women are treated,” Carter said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles where he was on a book tour. “If there is not enough food, boys are fed first. If there is not enough money for education, boys are educated first.”

Which is why Carter decided to write, “A Call To Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power.” Carter, age 89, will be at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, from noon until 2 p.m. on Wednesday to sign copies of his book. Read more here.

GEORGE HOLDING DEMOCRATIC OPPONENT: Virginia Conlon -- “... George Holding goes off to a high-end steakhouse and spends $1700. That’s after he voted to cut SNAP for hungry children in this country. Do you know what $1700 would do? $1700 would pay for a family of four for four months for food.” See video here.

QUICK HEADLINES ---

Duke, DENR kept potential impacts of coal ash dam breaches secret. Read more here.

Pickets in Wilmington demand higher pay for public safety workers. Read more here.

Federal investigators look into St. Aug’s grant. Read more here.

Investors Business Daily editorial -- Liberals can’t stand to see GOP succeed in NC. Read more here.

Meadows, Tillis call for natural gas strategy to rein in Russia’s Putin. Read more here.

NYT on Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon’s arrest. Read it here.

DHHS chief Wos says NC has met food stamp deadline. Read more here.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis contributed to this report.

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