NCGOP officials, lawmakers patch up differences over fundraising bill

Candidates running for the Council of State would be able to tap a new form of party organizing committee that has proved controversial among the GOP grass roots. Top party officials and legislative leaders made a show of patching up their differences Tuesday.

Posted Updated
GOP leaders 092915
Mark Binker
RALEIGH, N.C. — Top Republican Party officials and senior GOP lawmakers made a show Tuesday of patching of differences sparked when the General Assembly created a new form of fundraising apparatus meant to support those running for legislative seats.

Lawmakers plan to finish their work for the year some time on Wednesday, possibly in the hours between midnight and dawn.

Among the measures that regularly move at the end of legislative sessions is a technical corrections bill, a hodgepodge of tweaks to laws passed in prior years and earlier this session. Some fixes are purely technical – ensuring that statutory references match up, for example – while others change legislation after bigger problems arise.

House Bill 119 carries dozens of provisions, the most notable of which amends a bill passed last week that creates a new type of political fundraising committee. That measure, House Bill 373, would allow legislators to untether their fundraising efforts from the Republican and the Democratic parties. In essence, a group like the House Republicans or the Senate Democrats could create parallel party organizations to the main GOP or Democratic state parties.

Proponents of the move said it would improve transparency, but critics blasted it, saying it would allow lawmakers to circumvent party rules, such as those that prevent intervention in primaries. Good-government watchdogs also criticized the move as an opening to pay-to-play politics because donors who would be prohibited from giving to lawmakers could give to the new lawmaker-affiliated committees.

Some of those differences came to a head as Republican activists met in Greensboro on Saturday. A motion to censure House Rules Committee Chairman and Republican National Committeeman David Lewis, R-Harnett, was floated among much discontent over picking a new executive director of the party.

On Tuesday, Republican Party Chairman Hasan Harnett and newly chosen Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse posed for pictures alongside House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

"The grassroots have been listened to, and together we've made the necessary changes," Harnett said, adding, "Today, we have a unified party."

The biggest change to party committees would take responsibility for running the committee out of the hands of the House speaker or the Senate president pro tem. For example, members of the House Republican caucus could choose someone other than their top legislative leader to run their joint campaign committee.

As well, the bill allows members of the Council of State – the 10 statewide elected officials – to take advantage of the new party organizations.

Those two changes seemed to satisfy party officials, who said they needed to represent activists who were concerned the measure would drain power from the Republican base.

"Nothing is going to be any different whatsoever than it has been in the past," Woodhouse said, adding that Moore and Berger pledged to continue working with the party.

As of 8 p.m., the measure had cleared a key House committee and was on track to clear the General Assembly on Wednesday. It would then go to Gov. Pat McCrory.


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