Judge again clears former lobbyist in case brought by Secretary of State

05/23/2014 7:55 PM

02/15/2015 11:22 AM

Former uber-lobbyist Don Beason was not engaged in that activity, directly or through others, in the case that initially brought what was thought to be the largest fine in state history for lobbying-law violations, according to a judge’s ruling Friday.

In the long-running case, Beason first started fighting a $111,000 fine levied by N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall’s office in 2010. Marshall’s office said Beason had failed to disclose clients who wanted the state to repeal the “Buy American Act,” which prohibited the state Department of Transportation from using foreign iron and steel.

Wake Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway wrote in an order dated Friday that there was no evidence that Beason’s “activities” with other lobbyists sought to influence legislative or executive action for those clients.

Marshall’s office referred questions Friday to the state Attorney General’s office, which did not respond to a request for comment.

The case has been through Administrative Law hearings, Wake Superior Court and the state Court of Appeals.

Ridgeway first cleared Beason in 2012, saying the lobbying law was ambiguous and that the Secretary of State’s office had no authority to interpret the statutes. Ridgeway threw out what had been reduced by then to a $30,000 fine.

But the state appealed, arguing Ridgeway had overstepped his bounds. The Appeals Court said Ridgeway had the authority to decide whether Beason’s actions constituted lobbying, but told him to consider the statute’s full definition of lobbying. The result was Ridgeway’s latest decision.

Beason was once considered the state’s most influential lobbyist, but he left the scene for a time after it was revealed that he gave a $500,000 interest-free loan to former House Speaker Jim Black, a Democrat who went to prison on a public corruption charge.

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