Local Politics

GOP leaders raked in late campaign cash

Posted November 8, 2010 6:39 p.m. EST
Updated November 8, 2010 7:05 p.m. EST

— Top Republican lawmakers saw a steady influx of campaign contributions in the days leading up to last week's elections, according to campaign finance reports.

Sen. Phil Berger, for example, received $55,000 from groups like the Walmart PAC, Wells Fargo, the North Carolina Trucking Association PAC, GlaxoSmithKline and the North Carolina State Optometric Society.

In 2006 and 2008, he received $18,000 combined during the week before the elections.

Berger, R-Rockingham, is likely the next Senate president pro tempore.

"In general terms, what we're hoping is to have access," said Dr. Alec Parker, executive director of the North Carolina Dental Society, which gave $1,000 to Berger's campaign on Oct. 26.

Parker said the 3,500-member organization usually contributes to both sides early in the election cycle before trying to side with whoever appears to have the upper hand as voters head to the polls.

"The PAC board made some decisions as we got closer to the election to up the ante toward the Republican side," he said. "They would all like to give to winners."

Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, a watchdog group that focuses on money, politics and elections, said special-interest groups make business investments, no matter which political party is in charge.

"You really do have to follow the money, and the money does tell you a story," Hall said. "It's not a pretty one."

Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, a candidate to be the next House speaker, received $18,500 in late campaign contributions from many of the same groups that backed Berger, including the Optometric Society.

Two years ago, Stam collected $12,000 in campaign contributions in the week before the election. In 2006, he didn't get any late donations.

"It just seems impossible to stop it," Hall said. "People really believe they've got to get the money on the table in order to have a voice at the table, and that's just wrong."

In a perfect world, Parker said, everyone would have equal access. Unfortunately, that's not how the game is played, he said.

"We didn't write the rules, but we have to play by them," he said.

Hall said he expects even more money to start pouring in to the Republican Party and its legislative leaders now that the election is over.