Access to power sale this weekend

Access to power sale this weekend

- in Fitzsimon File

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Legislative leaders and officials from the McCrory Administration are huddled in the backrooms of the Legislative Building these days working out the final details of a package of massive tax breaks for corporations and wealthy individuals and the cuts to education to pay for them.

If you haven’t weighed in yet, there’s still time. You can call your legislators or leave a message at the governor’s office or maybe write a letter to the editor if you are so inclined.

But if you really want to have some input into how much in taxes you pay, you can have dinner with Governor Pat McCrory Thursday night and see him at a policy briefing Friday and tell him face to face what you’d like to see in the final tax agreement and if there any specific programs in the budget you’d like funded or cut.

All you need to do is write a $5,000 check to the Renew North Carolina Foundation, an advocacy organization started by McCrory’s close political allies and you can attend the two-day retreat at the Grandover resort in Greensboro

Come up with $25,000 or $50,000 and you will be a year-long member of the Foundation and get invited to the festivities at the Grandover and similar retreat later in the year.

And the best part is that no one will know you are there and have given the money, except for the other well-heeled influencers attending who also have also written big checks.

Contributions do not have to be reported and the head of the Renew North Carolina Foundation, longtime McCrory supporter John Lassiter, has declined to disclose who is contributing—even though the political organization is closely aligned with a governor who promised an open and transparent administration and talked incessantly on the campaign trail about an end to the “culture of corruption” in Raleigh.

Lassiter is the chair of the foundation. The president is Bob Singer, a lawyer with the Brooks Pierce law firm in Greensboro. The firm currently has lobbyists patrolling the legislative halls on behalf of more than a dozen corporate clients, including United Health Care, Cisco, and the N.C. Petroleum and Convenience Marketers. How convenient.

McCrory said in December when news of the foundation was first reported that he was not “engaged” with the group. He is certainly engaged with it this weekend, precisely at the time his administration is in the middle of the crucial backroom deal-making about tax cuts and the state budget.

The retreat also comes only a few days before July 1, when 70,000 laid off workers will lose their federal emergency unemployment benefits thanks to a law written by the N.C. Chamber of Commerce that was obediently passed by the General Assembly and signed by McCrory earlier in the year.

McCrory and legislative leaders have brushed aside suggestions that they merely change the effective date of the new law from July 1 to January 1 to allow the workers to continue to receive the benefits for another six months.

And it’s probably a safe bet that nobody sitting beside McCrory at dinner Thursday night will be urging him to delay the law to help the workers and their families pay their bills while they look for jobs. The dinner guests are no doubt some of the same folks who wrote the law cutting off the benefits in the first place.

It’s clear now that despite McCrory’s promises to change the way things work in Raleigh, not much has changed at all. If anything, the corrosive influence of big money on our state government has only gotten worse.

It seems fitting that the first big event held by the Renew North Carolina Foundation is being held at the Grandover Resort.

If you want unrivaled access and influence with this governor at the most critical time in the legislative session, you can have it—if you simply hand five Grand-Over.

Culture of corruption indeed.