Shocker: Lobbyists and Politicians in Bed Together – Literally

Lobbyists want something from legislators, in turn legislators want something in return.

North Carolina Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis, was awarded ALEC‘s award for “legislator of the year” in 2011. He is a leader pushing Amendment One – a proposition that would add discrimination as NC’s only amendment to its constitution by outlawing any legal coupling except marriage between a man and woman – in order to protect the “sanctity of marriage”. He has done some redistricting in attempts to squelch the strong progressive voice that comes out of Asheville, the largest city in Western North Carolina. He also has watched his fellow Republican legislator – Tim Moffitt -find a problem with Asheville’s water where there is none, create a committee to address the invented problem, and is pushing to take control of it’s water system away from the city without reimbursement. Thom Tillis has a housemate that is was also his Chief of Staff, Charles Thomas. Both men are married but share an apartment while serving in the capital, Raleigh.

The North Carolina Home Builders Association has had a pretty good run since Tom became Speaker of the House. This from the newsobserver.com:

Lisa Martin, the home builders association’s director of government affairs, wrote to its membership after last year’s legislative session and highlighted a long list of bills the association helped pass, amend or stop.

The association said it led efforts to enact sweeping regulatory reform and changes to workers’ comp laws. The association also said it was successful in repealing a measure that had allowed counties to hold voter referenda to enact a new tax on land transfers; voters in two dozen elections across the state had rejected the taxes in recent years.

In some instances, Martin credited legislative leadership for its help.

Still, Martin wrote that it had been “the most successful session on record” for the home builders and that its lobbyists were a reason…

“The secret of NCHBA’s success … has been and always will be the leadership of its Executive Committee, the hard work of our lobbying team, the support of our members, and the invaluable help from legislators who support the home building industry,” Martin wrote.

She said it is important for the association to guard against future harmful policies and laws, and encouraged members to give money to the association’s political action committee. It gave $277,600 to candidates in 2009-10, making it one of the top sources of campaign funding in the state.

“We must also ensure that our champions and friends in the General Assembly remain in office and assume positions of leadership and responsibility,” she wrote.

The statement’s are pretty blasé considering that they are from a special interest group with lobbyists. Then there is the news that Tom Tillis’ Chief of Staff has been having an affair with one of the Home Builder’s Association’s lobbyists, Jessica Hayes. This arrangement is hardly shocking, but illustrates the influence big money has on politics and has very real ramifications for the people being governed.

Thom’s former Chief of Staff, Charles Thomas recently resigned because of an admitted affair with a lobbyist from the N.C. Home Builders Association. Shortly thereafter, another of Tillis’s staff, Amy Hobbs,  resigned due to an affair with a lobbyist. Ms. Hobbs was formerly employed by McGuire Woods, a consulting firm that pushes statewide privatization of public resources and lobbies for Koch Industries. McGuire Woods is a strong ALEC supporter.

Tillis denies that he knew anything about any of the inappropriate relationships of his staff even though some of the intimate times happened in his own apartment with his longtime friend and housemate.

Confused yet? Me too. It’s like a pile of icky political spaghetti, but here’s the recap:

Tillis is in bed with ALEC – figuratively.

Thomas is in bed with Hayes at the NC HBA – literally.

Hobbs is in bed with ALEC and McGuire Woods and Koch Industries- figuratively.

Hobbs is in bed with Plunkett – literally.

Thomas lives with Tillis – literally.

Tillis denies knowledge of anything untoward – literally.

Moffit and Thomas live in Western North Carolina – literally.

McGuire Woods would love to have public resources privatized.

Republican leadership is in bed with fracking.

Moffitt denies wanting to privatize Asheville’s water, but can’t guarantee anything.

Moffitt is in bed with ALEC and McGuire Woods and Koch Industries – figuratively.

Fracking is much cheaper and easier if a water system is owned outright.

Fracking may be coming soon to North Carolina.

The biggest Republican led campaign across North Carolina right now is about saving “the sanctity of marriage” by codifying an Amendment that is nothing but blatant fear and discrimination of the GLBT community.

Due to our campaign laws that insure non-stop political campaigning, the staff of legislators often have more knowledge and power over specific issues than the legislators themselves.

I have a headache like I was just forced to watch a bad soap opera. My apologies. Nothing illegal has been found, investigations are being requested, but folks, this is the status quo of our political situation right now – and it is by no means limited to the Republican party. The money has got to get out of politics or any semblance of democracy will be a faint memory. Simply on a moral principle, this seems to be a tangled very undemocratic web – whether it is or not is almost beside the question because perception is part of politics. If our leaders can’t be trusted to govern the people, not just please corporate interests, than calling the government a democracy is a misnomer.

The values of good democratic governance include transparency, accountability, and the onus to recuse oneself if you cannot complete your duties in a forthright, citizen driven manner. Republican or Democratic. Our system is broken because this is just one of the many, many soap operas that play out across each state and saturates our Capitol.  We, the citizens, must pay attention, speak up and talk about it with our friends. Change for the better is in our hands, not the politicians.

Thanks to Davyne Dial for helping me with this one, and read more about Asheville’s water issue here.

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