Local News
9:38 am
Wed May 14, 2014

Because Of Senate Run, Tillis Only State Lawmaker Who Can Take Lobbyist Money

House Speaker and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis
House Speaker and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis
By now you may have heard Thom Tillis is running for U.S. Senate. With the short legislative session beginning in Raleigh today, he also returns to his political day job, Speaker of the House. This sets up an interesting ethical question.

That question, yes, involves campaign donations.

I’m sure you’re all well acquainted with North Carolina General Statue 163-278.13c. No? Well, all state lawmakers and registered lobbyists are – or at least should be.

It was passed in 2007 and pretty much bans lobbyists from giving donations to state legislative campaigns or candidates. Chris Fitzsimon, the director of the left leaning North Carolina Policy Watch, says the law just makes sense. "You don't want somebody accepting money from a lobbyist trying to get a bill passed, a bill stopped or an amendment added."

So every state legislator is barred from taking campaign cash from lobbyists – except one. 

House Speaker Thom Tillis. He’s seeking a U.S. Senate seat so North Carolina limits don’t apply to his federal campaign. He’s free to take donations from any lobbyist.

So far, at least five registered Statehouse lobbyists in North Carolina have given to his Senate campaign. They include representatives of charter schools, and the health care and tobacco industries. There are two bills that could make it easier to launch a charter school up for consideration this session.

Kay Hagan was in a similar situation in 2008 when she was a state lawmaker running for the U.S. Senate. The Tillis Campaign has not responded to a request for comment.

Update: Senator Kay Hagan’s campaign has issued this comment – in 2008 Kay relinquished her post as chairman of the Senate Appropriations committee to focus on her campaign.