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Profanity-laced recording of NC senator's meeting cited in death of puppy mill bill

Posted January 27
Updated January 28

— State Senate leaders said Monday they plan to kill legislation that would regulate so-called puppy mills in North Carolina after an audiotape leaked of a top Republican senator criticizing the bill and the House lawmakers who passed it last year.

Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, met Jan. 16 in his district with constituents to discuss House Bill 930, which sets minimum animal care standards for commercial dog breeders in the state.

The House passed the bill last May with the support of Gov. Pat McCrory and first lady Ann McCrory, but it hasn't yet been acted upon by the Senate. The governor last week listed passage of the legislation among his 2014 priorities.

Rabon, however, told constituents during a profanity-laced, 90-minute meeting that the bill was dead on arrival last year. He said the Senate had already decided not to act on the bill in the General Assembly's upcoming short session.

“That bill is not going to pass,” Rabon told the group. “Angels in heaven cannot make that bill pass."

Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick AUDIO: Rabon meeting, Jan. 16, 2014

WRAL News obtained a recording of meeting, and its authenticity was verified by two people who attended the meeting. 

Rabon, a veterinarian, said he believes House Bill 930 is too weak. He said its standards for humane treatment could too easily be interpreted by a judge to apply to livestock as well as pets.

“It can’t spill over to the animal husbandry in this state, which is an $80 billion industry – larger than the other top five industries in the state,” he said. “There is a LOT of money involved."

He told the group he would introduce a stronger bill in the future, but he wouldn’t give a date or year.

”When I do it, it will be done at the right time, and it will pass,” he said. “I’m in the top five members in power in the Senate. The best shot you folks have ever had, you’re talking to."

Brunswick Sheriff John Ingram, who also attended the meeting, asked Rabon whether a stronger bill would be able to pass the House as well as the Senate.

“If it’s sponsored by me, 100 percent,” Rabon responded. “It’s that simple, folks. I don’t mean to brag.”

Rabon, who did not respond to repeated requests for an interview, used an obscene term to refer to House lawmakers for passing the legislation.

“We were informed that that bill would never leave the House,” he said. “They [the House] are a bunch of (expletive). They got political heat. They said, ‘We can no longer sit on this. We know the Senate will not pass it because it’s a piece of crap, so we’ll send it to them, and they’ll take the heat.’ Ladies and gentlemen, that is politics 101.”

Rabon also accused the governor and first lady of improperly advocating for the bill in the House.

“It was bullied out of committee by the executive branch," he said. "The executive branch had absolutely, absolutely no business sticking its nose in the legislature on that sort of issue."

He claimed that Ann McCrory's advocacy, including a visit to the House chamber to watch the May 9 vote, was “against all laws.”

“There is a strong line between opinion and lobbying,” Rabon said. “When you pick up the phone and you are in a position of power and call individual legislators and offer advice or praise or this or that, you are, under the law, lobbying, and you must be a registered lobbyist in this state to do that.”

North Carolina law allows citizens to lobby lawmakers as a function of the First Amendment. People who are not being paid or employed to lobby do not have to register as lobbyists.

“That’s indirect, I guess you could call it, lobbying, but it’s not breaking any statute or breaking any law," said Common Cause North Carolina director Bob Phillips, who was in the House gallery when Ann McCrory visited. "Any citizen is free to come in and observe and lobby."

Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca blamed the decision to kill the puppy mill bill on the people who leaked the recording of Rabon's meeting, calling it "the unethical and unacceptable tactics of an overzealous few.”

“It is wrong to secretly record private conversations with members of the General Assembly and then threaten to expose those conversations to the media to force legislators to meet specific demands,” said Apodaca, R-Henderson. “That is nothing short of political extortion and represents a new low in lobbying for legislative action. To dignify those actions by moving ahead on this issue would set a dangerous precedent while condoning and encouraging these unethical tactics.”

Janie Withers, the person who recorded Rabon's Jan. 16 meeting, said the recording wasn't a secret. The tape recorder was sitting in plain view on the bench beside her, she said, adding that she believes Rabon was aware it was there.

Withers said she tapes most meetings she attends so she doesn't misquote people later. She said she wasn’t out to get Rabon.

“I did not tape the meeting an an attempt to air our dirty laundry in Brunswick County,” she said.

Cheri McLain, who rescues animals in the Brunswick County area and also attended the Jan. 16 meeting, said she and others who want the state to regulate puppy mills have been seeking a meeting with Rabon for four years but have been unable to get their calls and messages returned.

“I knew that Sen. Rabon did not support H930, the puppy mill bill. I just didn’t realize to what extent he didn’t support it,” McLain said. “I was actually very surprised that he used so much profanity, considering there were so many women in the room.”

Gov. McCrory addressed the debate at an event in Wilmington Monday afternoon.

“Just because someone uses foolish tactics, there is no reason to stop good legislation which needs to be passed here in North Carolina," he told reporters. "It was a disgusting tactic, whoever recorded Sen. Rabon. I am also disappointed in the type of dialogue, and my wife and I will stay above that type of dialogue.”

108 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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  • gojojorn Feb 1, 4:03 p.m.

    Puppy mills are so cruel to the dogs who are forced to live there. "Sen" Babon should have his veternarian license taken away as he obviously has no feelings for the poor dogs that suffer in puppy mills. I hope NC voters kick him out of the legislature.

  • nicelady2222 Jan 31, 2:08 p.m.

    "I have legislative immunity. Nothing I say can be used against me.....I can say I don't recall, "said Rabon. Sounds like Nixon's "executive privilege" argument to me. So guys, local voters in his own district feel they have another up and rising Nixon on their hands. If you had the chance to stop Nixon when he was just a nobody, would you do it? This scandal isn't just about puppies, but about a politican who believes he is above the law, just like Nixon did.

  • nicelady2222 Jan 31, 2:01 p.m.

    So, Senator Rabon is right he is very powerful, but so was Nixon and look what happened to him. Puppygate has less to do with puppies than it does to do with what it revealed about the political process and who we have in power right now. The media has been called the 4th branch of government. It’s where citizens turn when the other three don’t do their jobs. The media should dig deeper into this because Puppygate has the potential to throw all the Republicans out of office all the way to the top. The Democrats have tremendous opportunity here, so do the Republicans if they choose to look at Rabon and Apodaca, but not if they think this will blow over. Apodaca claims that “voters tried to use the tape to extort votes and therefore the bill has been killed.” Senator Apodaca extortion is a strong word. Where is your evidence that whistleblowers tried to extort votes? I suggest you come up with some strong evidence to support your claim or the killing of the bill is just punishmen

  • nicelady2222 Jan 31, 1:54 p.m.

    Why was this bill stifled when Senator Rabon’s own words caught on tape embarrassed him? Did the NC Senate abuse their power and punish local constituents for exercising their democratic rights to meet with their own senator? His comments were so explosive and revealed his character just as the Watergate Tapes revealed Nixon’s character, that the group released it to the media so that his voters could know who he really is. Instead of punishing the elected official caught on tape acting similarly to Nixon, the Republican Party, even McCrory himself sought to blame the whistleblower, squelched the bill and called the tape a “disgusting tactic.” Meanwhile, we all remember the tapes of Watergate. They brought down a president. Puppygate shouldn’t go away because it reveals a senator’s character whose vindictive tactics (in his own words), “if she gets on my backside, she will never get another bill through my committee”, are being condoned by the Republican Party in the Se

  • janiewithers2 Jan 31, 10:00 a.m.

    If citizens had told you what Senator Rabon said you would not have believed it and I don't blame you. I too was shocked at the language, the chest bumping, the arrogance, the power he held over "lesser" legislators. He never mentioned respect in this meeting because there is none for him in Raleigh. It seems NC needs only a select few Senators to make legislation that is bought by special interest groups through campaign donations. Let's just send the other 24 Senators home and save NC some money in the budget. After all, we have a Senator who has the "special interest" of NC in his pocket! NC Senate will have no vote in this matter because Bill Rabon does not like it and they are afraid to speak up because Bill Rabon sits on the powerful finance committee. This is truly Politics 101 folks and you have the audacity to say that releasing the very words of our Senator to the voting public was wrong! Let's keep the public in the dark and tell them how wonderful we are and they mi

  • iknowjack Jan 30, 9:01 a.m.

    It's so good to know that the GOP has our back against those insipid puppies! Keep up the great work, Republicans! You guys rock!

  • Obscurite Jan 29, 12:34 p.m.

    News flash...GOP under siege and they are acting like it...anyone catch Michael Grimm threatening a news correspondent for having the temerity to ask him about the FBI investigations in his campaign finance issues? And this all comes from the "moral party"? These guys are giving my party a BAD name...not that our name has been all that stellar of late...

    (c;

  • chance Jan 28, 3:30 p.m.

    Who cares about the profanity. This nut job is an arrogant spin doctor who has the capacity of a 2 year old when it comes to actually listening and responding with a clear line of communication. He is a bully ... screaming to get his spin across. He promises that he wants a puppy mill bill and that he will do what he can but he does not appear to be doing a thing. All talk (or should I say screaming!) and no action. Actions speak louder than words! I agree with the others ... in corporate america this guy would be gone in a heartbeat!

  • Super Hans Jan 28, 3:12 p.m.

    Top 5 in power! This is a baaaaaad man!

  • Vote for Pedro Jan 28, 3:11 p.m.

    It seems like *money* is what is important to the NC General Assembly Members. OMG**NC has a... View More

    — Posted by dollibug

    money is what is important to everyone and everything. the sole reason things are done or not done.

    — Posted by woodrock223

    Pretty sad for you then. Try doing something just for love or kindness, it's quite refreshing.

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