Lobbyists: Lawmakers turn up pressure to quiet HB2 opponents

Posted May 11

— While Republican state leaders have complained about being "bullied" by the federal government over House Bill 2, lobbyists in Raleigh tell WRAL News they and the businesses they represent are being bullied by state lawmakers seeking to silence business opposition to the new law.

Lobbyists say they've been told – either directly by legislative leaders or by lawmakers' staff – that, if they or the businesses they represent speak out publicly against House Bill 2, they can expect retribution from House and Senate leaders.

Legislation they want won't move, and other bills could actually target them.

WRAL News spoke with 11 lobbyists who have experienced or are aware of such actions, but none would speak on the record for fear they would lose business or be targeted for retribution. One has already lost business.

One long-time lobbyist called the pressure a "gross abuse of power." Another veteran lobbyist labeled it "vicious," adding, "I've never seen anything like it."

Rep. Chris Sgro, D-Guilford, an outspoken critic of House Bill 2, said he's heard about the problem.

"It's really disturbing. It's a bullying tactic that potentially leadership is using," Sgro said. "If it’s true that businesses are being threatened that they need to ignore their bottom line in favor of terrible public policy, that’s just irresponsible. That needs to stop immediately."

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said it's nothing new for lawmakers to associate lobbyists with their position on certain issues for better or worse, but when asked about efforts to silence businesses and corporations over House Bill 2, he responded, "No, don't know anything about it."

"I haven't said that to a lobbyist, and I haven't been around any member that's said that to a lobbyist," said Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson. "I don't think the folks I know here would do that."

House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, also denied knowing anything about it. "Retribution politics is not a practice we engage in."

House Majority Leader Mike Hager, a vocal supporter of House Bill 2, recently tweeted at a lobbyist, "Wow I would think from all your negative posts about HB2 that u weren't a lobbyist and didn't have to work with the majority."

"That's not a threat," Hager, R-Rutherford, explained to WRAL News. "We want people that'll work with us. We don't want people that'll go out there and bash us on Twitter and bash us on Facebook."

Hager wants to remove state tax breaks that currently benefit American Airlines, NASCAR, Google, Apple and Facebook, all of which have taken public positions against House Bill 2. But he said that's just a coincidence.

He says he's targeting those tax breaks because he disagrees with incentives directed toward individual companies, not as any sort of retribution.

"There are businesses that take a certain stance, and there's a lot of lobbyists that represent businesses, you know, (that) have taken a certain negative stance on HB2," Hager said. "None of those, I don't think, have had any negative retribution at all."

Wherever the pressure is coming from, Sgro says, it needs to stop, noting that American Airlines is a major employer that chose to stay in Charlotte after its recent merger with USAir.

"The business community is standing up for what they think is the right thing and certainly what’s good for their bottom line," Sgro said. "We already have this terrible business climate because of this bill. If some members of leadership are going to double down on that and threaten the businesses that are willing to stay and try to make it better, that's dangerous."


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  • Eric Hammond May 17, 10:05 p.m.
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    "There are no transgender rights to begin with." Roger Clements

    Sorry, Sir but, there ARE inalienable human rights as set forth by the Declaration of Independence and others as specified by the US Constitution - if you don't like that they apply to EVERYONE, then do us a favor and LEAVE! otherwise shut your ignorant pie-hole

    such typical republican behavior... "shut up or you'll get payback"
    don't educate yourself on both sides of an argument, and don't you DARE tell people to do so (eh hem...Facebook) or you'll be labelled as " radical left wing media".... don't anyone DARE to stand up to us or you'll be carted off to Gitmo .... dear lord why has Nazi Germany been re-born in the US!?!?!

  • Roger Clements May 14, 2:46 p.m.
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    View quoted thread

    "Yep, somewhere along the way you are supporting a company that supports LGBT rights."

    But mostly, all of us are supporting companies that quietly oppose the LBGT agenda.

    I was going to call them "LGBT rights", but that is to buy into the slick, Orwellian manipulation of language the left does so well. There are no transgender rights to begin with.

  • Raleigh Rose May 12, 3:26 p.m.
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    View quoted thread

    Calling psychology pseudo-science makes you sound a whole lot like Tom Cruise. You know, God gave us common sense and intellect. I don't believe he meant for us to forgo their use to make our lives better and to learn and understand the world around us.

    Small list of companies that support the LGBT community since you say you do your part:
    American Airlines
    Proctor and Gamble
    AT&T Kellogg's Sears Cheerios Tide Citibank Levi's MasterCard Amazon Colgate-Palmolive CVS Disney, who own ESPN and ABC Verizon Pfizer GSK Bristol Myers Squib Office Depot Nationwide Microsoft Marriot Hewlet-Packard Google General Mills Facebook-which you are using to comment on this website Ebay Dow Oreo JCP Wal-Mart Food Lion Kroger which owns Harris Teeter Ford GMC Honda Dodge Chrysler Toyota Volvo Ram Nissan Chevy Cadillac Lincoln

    Yep, somewhere along the way you are supporting a company that supports LGBT rights.

  • Roy Pine May 12, 1:35 p.m.
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    View quoted thread

    You (and the knuckle-draggers at Breitbart) are confusing market capitalization with revenue stream. You deciding to go to Dollar General rather than Target doesn't affect the stock value, at least not in the short-term. And it's definitely only been a short-term boycott.

    Market cap of a large company can fluctuate by an eye-popping amount for a lot of reasons. Target's stock is actually up more than 10% YTD.

    Now, if quarterly revenues decline significantly (unlikely, as that ilk were happier at Wally World to begin with) then there could be some linkage. But for now, it's like claiming that the days are getting longer because God likes HB2.

  • Roy Pine May 12, 1:26 p.m.
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    Well, this is a self-correcting problem. Play hardball with enough corporations, and you'll find your opponent has a huge bankroll in the next election cycle.

    So please, Republicans, continue to sh-t on the hand that feeds you.

  • Fanny Chmelar May 12, 11:55 a.m.
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    If your representatives are working to help your community, keep them in office.

    If they are playing silly games and playing "I'm the leader, do what I want or else!" games instead of being your representative, get them out in November.

    The GOP is pulling out every trick in the book and look what it got us:
    Polluted water that's getting more polluted
    Loss of rights to locally govern and set living wages
    Millions upon millions in lost money
    Measurable and very public job losses
    Teachers fleeing the state

    Pollution, government overstep, lost revenue, lost jobs, crumbling education - and that's the very very short list.

    Vote in November!

  • Robert Richardson May 12, 10:41 a.m.
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    "Hager wants to remove state tax breaks that currently benefit American Airlines, NASCAR, Google, Apple and Facebook, all of which have taken public positions against House Bill 2. But he said that's just a coincidence. 16

    He says he's targeting those tax breaks because he disagrees with incentives directed toward individual companies, not as any sort of retribution."

    Ummmm, I am pretty sure there are more than just these companies that receive incentives. Just admit it, you want lobbyists that only say yes to everything.

  • Demute Sainte May 12, 10:39 a.m.
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    You should switch to decaf.

    Oh... its DNA and plumbing that determine gender. Anything else is pseudo-science psychology and/or genetic abnormalities.

    I also disagree.... requiring a person to use the bathroom of their DNA given gender is not discrimination. I can debate this all day long.

  • Xander Bogaerts May 12, 10:35 a.m.
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    Hmmmm..... I come up with a Bajillion gaziillion dollar loss! Anyone check my math please?

    All hail Mark/Iam/Demute; the undisputed king of NC and king of math; THE anti-satan; defender of extreme right, neolithic, old testament only Bible interpretation!

    All hail ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom), the extreme right legal firm that defends 'family values', protects 'religious liberties, all for the low, low cost of discrimination and $4.5 Billion dollars in potential losses to NC!

  • Demute Sainte May 12, 10:33 a.m.
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    View quoted thread

    Have you? Your money supports the companies bad habits in other countries where gays are being killed.

    Personally I dont shop at Target, I dont own Apple products, I dont buy Coke.... or use Paypal. I do my part. Do you?