Raleigh, N.C. — Once Pat McCrory is sworn in as governor on Jan. 5, he will celebrate with a week-long series of events, including a "Governor’s Inauguration Celebration" on Jan. 12, the very last night of festivities.
That event is sponsored by a group called The Foundation for North Carolina, a nonprofit group that didn't exist until two weeks after this year's election. It is so new that, as of Wednesday, its website wasn't up and running.
"I think that we're at a very important point in North Carolina," said Jay Bryant, a former Wake County Republican Party spokesman who is president of the foundation. "We've got a new governor and a new legislature. That suggests there will be a lot of change and a lot of activity ... There is certainly room for a new research and education organization that can help that come about."
The group is organized as a 501(c)4, a "social welfare organization" that is tax-exempt. Such organizations don't have to reveal where they get their funding, and Bryant declined to name who had donated to start the foundation. He said that, while he has a staff, he's about a week away from being able to list board members and notables involved with the group.
The foundation filed its incorporation papers on Nov. 20, the same date that McCrory announced he would attend the group's event at Raleigh's downtown convention center.
Asked why a nascent group would want to take on the task of organizing a high-profile inauguration-week event, Bryant called it a good opportunity. The proceeds from the event – tickets are $75 and up for a VIP reception – will help fund the foundation going forward.
According to the group's incorporation papers, it will promote "the common good and social welfare" in North Carolina by:
- "conducting public policy research, sponsoring educational activities and advocating in favor of a free market economy and innovative strategies to strengthen North Carolina's economy in the twenty-first century;"
- "Educating the citizens of North Carolina regarding the economic challenges and choices that the State faces with regard to important public policy issues affecting taxation, education, transportation, government reform and energy"
However, early scuttlebutt on the group suggested that it would have close ties to the McCrory administration, perhaps helping the newly elected governor sell his policy agenda. While Bryant said that notion is "not completely wrong," he said that, as a 501(c)4, he could not coordinate with a political figure like McCrory.
"One of the reasons we felt this was a good time is a lot of us feel he has good ideas for programs, and they coincide with the market approaches he talked about during his campaign," Bryant said. He added that there have been times when political leaders come into office with a lot of energy but that the push for new ideas can lose momentum. "We wanted to be helpful in keeping the momentum going for the kinds of reforms the governor ran on."
It's worth noting that the foundation's event bucks tradition a bit. Typically, the Junior League of Raleigh has hosted an inaugural ball that was the big social event on the calendar. That ball still will happen Friday night – and benefit the group's leadership center – but it now has competition from the Foundation for North Carolina.
Pat Wilkins, the Junior League's president, said tickets have just gone on sale and invitations will go out this week, so she can't tell if attendance will be off this year or not.
"This is our 20th ball," Wilkins said, noting that the North Carolina-themed affair certainly has tradition behind it.
As for the Foundation for North Carolina, its event will feature music from The Chairmen of the Board and The Blue Dogs.
When WRAL News asked the McCrory transition team about the foundation, they emphasized that the group was not affiliated with the governor-elect but that he had agreed to attend their event.
“He was approached by a group formed to support the policies he’s working on,” said McCrory spokesman Chris Walker. “He thought it was a good idea and was happy to attend.”