Local Politics

Perdue's son raises eyebrows at lobbying event

Posted May 22, 2009 6:11 p.m. EDT
Updated May 22, 2009 7:07 p.m. EDT

— Some political observers are questioning the propriety of Gov. Beverly Perdue's son attending a recent event for lobbyists and lawmakers.

Garrett Perdue left his mother's campaign last fall shortly after her election to take a job at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, North Carolina's largest law firm. To avoid any potential conflict of interest, the firm made clear that he would work under former Gov. Jim Hunt solely on business and economic development matters.

On Wednesday night, the North Carolina Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association held its annual party for lawmakers and lobbyists, and attendees said Garrett Perdue showed up and mingled through the crowd.

Given the ongoing investigation of former Gov. Mike Easley's dealings in office with friends and contributors, political observers said the perception of unethical behavior in Raleigh now attracts plenty of scrutiny.

"I'd advise him not to be in those kinds of situations. It's not good judgment," said state Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston. "You can't (unring) the bell. If you're there and you're the governor's son and it's a political gathering of a special-interest group, then you've got a perception problem."

Daughtry said Garrett Perdue never lobbied him, and he didn't hear any word of the governor's son lobbying anyone else.

"I don't think he should be beaten up over one event, but it's worth reminding him," said Bob Hall, executive director of watchdog group Democracy North Carolina. "He does have to be extra cautious. That's just the environment we're in."

Gov. Perdue said she trusts her son.

"I'm not aware of the specific events, but Garrett assures me he's not lobbying in Raleigh, and I take his word for it," she said in a statement.

Garrett Perdue declined to comment, but Womble Carlyle spokesman Russell Thomas said he wasn't lobbying and attended the event solely because he knew others there.

"Garrett attended a social event – nothing more, nothing less," Thomas said.