RALEIGH – ‘Power corrupts,’ the saying goes. And that premise is what prosecutors are interested in exploring with regards to Speaker of the N.C. House Tim Moore (R-Cleveland). Recent stories focusing on Moore’s use of a powerful committee chairmanship to advance legislation that enriched a campaign contributor, who later hired Moore as an attorney, have sparked authorities’ interest.
“Two years after then-House Rules Chairman Tim Moore’s legislation rescued a controversial south Durham mixed-use land project and boosted a high-end residential community next door, one of the developers took him on as his lawyer.
And two years after that, the same developer, Neal Hunter, gave Moore a legal services contract for a Durham-based pharmaceutical company Hunter had recently co-founded, paying him $40,000 for four months of work largely related to how federal tax law treated such startups.
Moore, a Cleveland County Republican who became House speaker in 2015, disclosed those details in an interview Friday about his private legal work. He was adamant he never mixed that work with his legislative duties.”
The allegations smell of another phrase – Pay to Play. It’s something that most people understand, and revile, about the intermingling of business and politics. It helps fuel anti-business, ant-capitalism sentiment on the Left, even though cronyism is itself anathema to capitalism.
As mentioned in the story excerpt above, Moore maintains that he keeps a firewall of sorts between work clients and work for the people of North Carolina. The prosecutors also say the investigation is not a criminal one, merely an exploratory exercise to get more information regarding the stories.
Now, this could all be a case of eager Leftist media pushing a story to hurt a powerful Republican – that happens all the time. Still, pay-to-play schemes also occur frequently enough to have a place in the collective conscience of Americans. So which is this?
“A few days before its publication, she said an anonymous letter arrived regarding Moore’s legal work for the North Carolina Bail Agents Association, a not-for-profit group that earns fees by providing training for those in the bail business. The letter, later sent to the N&O, alleged the association had paid $10,000 in a “legal retainer fee” to win his support for legislation that would prevent a for-profit competitor from offering the training.
Moore confirmed he worked for the association for that sum of money in early 2012, but said the allegations in the letter are “full of lies.” He said he represented the association regarding the training dispute in hearings and meetings before the state insurance department, which regulates the bail bond industry, but that ended his involvement. He said he spent “28 to 30 hours” representing the association. He didn’t recall if the department made a determination.
In June 2012, three months after Moore said his representation ended, and as the session wound to a close and bills were taken up in droves, the House Insurance Committee brought up and approved an unrelated Senate bill. It had been stripped and amended with legislation that gave the association the exclusive right to provide training. The new version listed no sponsors; Moore said the insurance department requested it. The House and Senate approved it by overwhelming margins, but one lawmaker later said he was misled about its intent.
The law has since been thrown out by state judges who found it set up an unconstitutional monopoly.
The legislative record shows Moore excused himself from voting on the legislation when it came to the House floor.
“At no time did I do anything relevant to that bill, because I would have a conflict,” Moore said.
Moore said he has seen the letter, which was first sent to the State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement in May. Josh Lawson, the election board’s general counsel, confirmed receipt of the letter but said he was prohibited from speaking further about it.
Moore said the letter was timed to the election. He added he’d like to find out who was behind it “because I’d like to sue them.””
There is always the possibility that both are true. The Leftist media may merely be pushing these stories against a Republican now, information they’ve likely had for some time, because the election is right around the corner; AND, Moore’s connections to these crony deals is less than ethical.
It certainly wouldn’t be the first time state legislation was used, or substantial lobbying powers employed, to set up or protect a state enforced monopoly. For example, the hospital association has been using the power of its lobbying operations for years to keep the antiquated and harmful Certificate of Need regulations on the books, protecting hospitals from competition and thereby reducing access and inflating prices.
Also, the overpriced ballot printing and election equipment businesses of the Owen G. Dunn company in New Bern has been shielded from competition through out North Carolina by legislation that set up significant barriers to effectively lock out competing concerns.
Cronyism, for sure, exists in the North Carolina General Assembly, but it is not clear if Moore is part of it based merely on these media hits. We’ll have to see how the actual investigation into Moore plays out to see if this smoke is real, or a merely a political smoke-screen tossed out there by the Left with approaching elections.
Read much more about the details of Speaker Moore’s alleged pay-to-play schemes here.