RALEIGH – It is clear the Governor Roy Cooper did not quite expect the backlash he received from trying to sneak in a $58 million dollar slush fund as part of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline deal, and then hiring one of the lobbyists involved in that deal as his legislative director.
At the end of last week, the new hire faced a firing line of questions related to the fund before the General Assembly voted, by a large majority, to put that slush money toward poor school districts instead of Cooper’s pet projects and political causes.
“Republican legislators grilled an energy lobbyist-turned-legislative director for Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday, peppering him with questions about the administration’s $57.8 million pipeline fund and insinuating Cooper may have broken federal bribery laws by tying that fund to a permit approval on the multibillion-dollar project.
Asked Thursday whose idea the fund was, how the $57.8 million figure was arrived at, who would hold the money and other questions, Cooper spokeswoman Sadie Weiner emailed WRAL News with the following statement:
“The governor was concerned about impacts of the pipeline on Eastern North Carolina. Our office worked with the ACP partners separately from the DEQ permit review process to establish the fund to lessen the impact in the counties affected by the project. We intended for decisions about the distribution of the fund to be made by experts through an open and transparent application process for government entities and qualified non-profits. The Rural Infrastructure Authority and the Clean Water Management Trust Fund are examples of two places that could fulfill those goals and distribute the funds. It is shameful but not surprising that legislative Republicans have turned a positive thing for North Carolina into a political circus.”
Republican legislators, pointing to the General Assembly’s constitutional power of the purse, moved to block that plan Thursday, passing legislation that would direct the full fund instead to schools in the eight counties: Northampton, Halifax, Nash, Wilson, Johnston, Sampson, Cumberland and Robeson counties. That language was added to a bill delaying class-size requirements and putting new money into K-12 schools as well pre-kindergarten classes, all high priorities for Democrats and for growing schools systems worried they wouldn’t be able to meet class-size thresholds in the coming school year.”
Cooper’s idea of ‘qualified non-profits’ would have undoubtedly included Leftist groups that also donate to his political campaigns. The political circus was not created by Republicans, as Cooper’s mouthpiece suggests – it clearly began when Cooper decided it’d be a good idea to take millions in money that he would control as part of a economic development deal he otherwise opposed, under the guise of ‘environmental mitigation’ projects.
Good for the Republicans that sought a quick recourse and setting Cooper straight.
— Harry Brown (@Sen_HarryBrown) February 9, 2018
The media coverage that frames the vote on the funds reclamation and distribution as a take it or leave it insertion into an extant bill literally discounts their own reporting that the money would be redirected to schools. The original bill was on schools – class sizes, funds, etc..
“House Minority Leader Darren Jackson said the “ambush” of Lilley was the most shameful thing he has seen in his 10 years at the legislature. He noted last year’s abbreviated attempt to impeach Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, also a Democrat, which was voted forward in a House committee and then, seemingly, quietly dropped. Now, Republicans are suggesting the governor violated the Hobbs Act, he said.
“Unfortunately, this is what our politics has become,” Jackson, D-Wake, said. “I just want to apologize to Mr. Lilley, who has been here for five days.””
Asking for answers about a $58 million slush fund from lobbyist on the deal, now legislative director of the governor who received those funds, is the ‘most shameful thing’ you’ve witnessed?
If asking questions about shady slush funds in shameful, then bring on the shame.
(By the way, First in Freedom Daily has gotten word that the push to investigate Secretary of State Elaine Marshall for giving notary licenses to illegal aliens will get a breath of new life by some rank-and-file Republicans who aren’t scared of ruffling feathers.)
Democrat’s deflections on the possible wrongdoings here by Cooper are what is really shameful. As representatives of the people of North Carolina, do these legislators not deserve to know exactly what kind of discussions were behind the creation of this fund? Did Cooper ask for this money before the permit was officially approved? If so, what assurances can Cooper give that a check for $58 MILLION had nothing to do with his administration’s approval of the pipeline?
While Lilley may be new on the job and unable to answer all of these questions, they do deserve answers. We’ll be waiting.