More Cronyism? Speaker Moore & The Chicken Plant

RALEIGH – Speaker of the N.C. House Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) has been feeling the heat on multiple fronts in the last year. Legitimate questions have been raised about his ‘part-time’ gigs that earn him an awful lot of taxpayer money; investigations have been opened into whether or not his legislative pull was central to his being retained, at lucrative rate, by a start up; and, now concerns are resurfacing that he inappropriately used his powerful political position to engage in some cronyism involving bending regulatory rules to benefit a real estate investment.

From WRAL:

“A veteran political watchdog wants state investigators to look for any connection between House Speaker  Tim Moore‘s 2016 sale of a chicken processing plant in Siler City and major political donations from the plant’s buyer that followed. 

Moore’s involvement with the chicken plant has been questioned for some time. He and partners bought the former Townsend plant out of bankruptcy for $85,000 in 2013 through a company called Southeast Land Holdings. They sold it to Mountaire Farms in 2016 for $550,000.

In between, Moore worked with the state Department of Environmental Quality on environmental clean-up issues, particularly on fuel tanks buried on the property. […]”
Turning an $85,000 investment into $550,000 is quite a profit margin. What made the property so much more valuable? Well, mentioned above, the property had a few underground fuel tanks in disrepair, one of which was leaking diesel fuel.
A senior advisor to Moore at the time, and former assistant secretary of the State’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), reportedly reached out to DEQ officials about the fuel tanks and the ability to leverage state reimbursement programs available to property developers for cleaning up environmental issues.
The question is: Did Moore, via Gillespie, have the issue expedited through the government agency due to his political pull?
If the property in question was accepted into the ‘Brownfields’ program, after all, it would become more valuable overnight. That is what Bob Hall, the partisan former director of the ‘Watchdog’ group, Democracy North Carolina, is seeking answers to. Further, he wants to know if there is a untoward relationship between Moore and a GOP donor that eventually bought the property.

“”There’s a smoking-gun email that shows that Tim Moore‘s staff person got the Department of Environmental Quality to fast-track a reclassification of this property,” Hall said.

“[Cameron] gets tax breaks worth hundreds of thousands of dollars when you reclassify the land [and] put it in the brownfields program.”

Following the sale, just before the 2016 election, large campaign checks from Cameron started rolling in:

  • $100,000 to the North Carolina Republican Party
  • $25,000 to Moore’s House Republican caucus
  • $500,000 to a political-action committee supporting then-Gov. Pat McCrory […]”

Government’s coercive influence on the private sector is such that, often, big companies pad the campaign coffers of those in power in order to carry favor when money is on the line. At the time it was Republicans in power, and so Republicans got some big campaign checks from companies like Mountaire Farms’ CEO.

“It is part of this political wheeling-and-dealing, backscratching, coziness, corruption,” Hall said. “This is a politician, Speaker Tim Moore, who’s influencing government action to benefit himself, his company, his political future and a major political donor. So, he’s using his office for personal benefit and to help a really big Republican donor.”

Sketchy? Yes. Reason to look closer at the Speaker’s and other powerful politicians’ dealings? With out a doubt. Hard evidence of corruption on the part of Moore? Not quite.

Despite Hall’s contention that a particular email represents a smoking gun, employees up and down the hierarchy at DEQ are adamant that they were never subject to any political pressure from the Speaker’s office fast track issues related to the property in question. And this isn’t a group of Republican activists, by any means. Naturally, the Department of Environmental Quality is chock full of Left-leaning environmentalists dedicated to their jobs and politically loyal to Democrats. The fact that no one in that agency that touched this case is crying foul should give one pause.

Bob Hall is a partisan Leftist, motivated by attacking political opponents. Moore said as much following the filing of an ethic complaint by Hall.

“”It will receive the same full dismissal by state officials as previous efforts by my political opponents to spin a false narrative that advances their own agenda,” Moore said in a statement.”

Further, the company in question attests that the property purchase was part of a multi-parcel purchase executed through a realtor with no knowledge of the owners.

“Mountaire purchased five separate parcels of land to build our $170 million processing plant complex in Siler City, NC. Negotiations took place through a Realtor, not directly with the property owners. The company was unaware that the Speaker of the House was involved in one of the properties,” the statement said. “Mountaire worked directly with North Carolina’s Brownfields Program on each parcel. Our investment in Siler City is a great example of a successful brownfields redevelopment project that will eventually create about 1,100 jobs in Chatham County and millions of dollars in economic development.”

There is likely a lot of influence peddling happening on Jones Street that is worthy of attention, and so one can’t be too upset that a Left-leaning media makes a big deal out something that seems sketchy if you squint your eyes hard enough. They should keep looking, though, as there are likely more solid discoveries to be made regarding cronyism and the honorables in the state legislature.

As they’re doing that, they should also look in the mirror and ask themselves if there aren’t more immediate, more major, more egregious corruption scandals that their partisan allegiance makes them seemingly blind to. Perhaps the case of the Governor Roy Cooper and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline drama?

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