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Revised Campaign Fundraising Bill Passes House Committee

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RALEIGH, N.C. — In the halls of the General Assembly, lobbyists outnumber lawmakers by about 4 to 1. Once the session ends, many legislators will hit up lobbyists to give campaign money or organize fundraisers.

"Lobbyists shouldn't really be raising money for the people they're trying to influence," said Bob Phillips of Common Cause.

Phillips and other government watchdogs fought to take money out of the influence equation.

"What's going to have a greater impact? The $100 check a lobbyist writes or the $10,000 he or she is able to raise from people during the session before a big vote on a bill?" said Chris Heagarty, with the North Carolina Center For Voter Education.

The North Carolina Professional Lobbyists Association wants to ban fundraising among members.

"I think that the public feels there's a question about it," said spokeswoman Christie Barbee. "I think it clouds the real work we do."

But in committee, House members balked. Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, and the Civil Liberties Union raised red flags about taking away rights.

"That's core political speech, which is protected by not only the U.S. Constitution's 1st Amendment, but by the North Carolina Constitution as well," said Stam.

Much of the legislative focus on money, ethics, and lobbying reforms stems from influence investigations linked to House Speaker Jim Black. Legal issues aside, Black said mixing campaign money and lobbyists looks bad.

"I think that's maybe something we should stop doing because that just has a negative connotation," he said.

The lobbying reform debate is not over. The full House still must vote on the bill. Then it moves to the Senate for consideration.