New foundation raising big money on promise of access to McCrory

The Foundation for North Carolina is offering $25,000 and $50,000 membership that would include access to events where the governor elect is invited to speak.

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Mark Binker
The Foundation for North Carolina is circulating solicitations for donations of $25,000 and $50,000. Among the perks that donors would receive in return is access to the group's inaugural activity, as well as a spring conference in Pinehurst and a fall conference at Bald Head Island.

"Yes, we are interested in getting people to give at a higher level," said Jack Hawke, an adviser to the newly created 501(c)4. "Both of those (conferences) are in the planning stage."

Hawke is a member of McCrory's transition team and was an adviser to his campaign.

Like Jay Bryant, who will serve as the group's director, Hawke said the foundation will focus on public policy. He objected to the description of it as "a conservative" group, although it is clear form the foundation's incorporation papers and and conversations with Bryant and Hawke that the group will be disposed toward right-of-center policy ideas.

Early speculation about the group has included that it would serve as an adjunct to the McCrory administration, helping to magnify the new governor's ideas. In a conversation last week, Bryant emphasized that, as a 501(c)4, it could not coordinate with a political candidates and had been founded to have a lifespan beyond McCrory's administration. Hawke, too, said the foundation would focus on policy. But he did not dismiss the idea that the group might be kindly disposed toward the new governor. He pointed out that during the campaign, a liberal 501(c)4s dogged McCrory with a man in an owl suit. 

"It seemed a little bit unfair there was nobody on the other side," Hawke said.

The foundation is not part of the network of nonprofits founded by conservative financier and fellow McCrory transition team member Art Pope, Hawke said. To date, he said, Pope has not given the group any money – "Which is not to say we wouldn't take it."

Asked if the solicitations for big money donations could be viewed as selling access to the new governor, Hawke said he didn't think so. Other groups, such as the N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation, chambers of commerce and even a veterans group have used appearances by the governor to sell tickets and garner publicity. 

"I don't think we're selling access more than anyone else," Hawke said. "I don't think we're much different from a civic club that does the same thing."

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