Local News

State Lawmakers Step Up Fundraising Efforts During Legislative Off-Season

Posted October 18, 2005 7:14 a.m. EDT

— It happens every time the legislative session ends: Lawmakers flood lobbyists with invitations for receptions.

"You look at them in their envelope and you think, 'Maybe I've been invited to a wedding.' And you open it up, and it's a reception for a legislator," lobbyist George Lawrence said.

Observers said lawmakers target lobbyists because lobbyists are the "ones who have the biggest pockets," Rep. Mickey Michaux (D-Durham County) said.

Many lawmakers may be stepping up the fundraising efforts now, in the hopes of warding off potential competitors with the cash in their coffers. Plus, during the legislative session, lawmakers are not allowed to ask lobbyists for campaign contributions. Once the session is over, lobbyists are fair game.

But lobbyists are also paid to influence lawmakers on legislation, said Chris Heagarty, director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education, a nonpartisan think tank in Raleigh.

"There may not be a direct quid pro quo, but if you're a lobbyist and you have a chance to get in front of a legislator, it's probably not going to hurt your relationship with him," he said.

Related Link:

N.C. Center for Voter Education

Related Link:

N.C. General Assembly

Michaux said he has not needed to ask for donations from lobbyists. He spent only $6,100 to win re-election last year, he said.

But across the state, the cost of winning a legislative seat has gone up three-fold over the past decade, Heagarty said.

Some legislators spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get elected.

It cost Wake County representative Grier Martin $389,000 to win the 34th District House seat, for example. Much of that money came directly from lobbyists.

"I don't think you have to be beholden to anybody simply because you asked them for a contribution," Michaux said.

While there may be some conflicts of interest, Heagarty said he believes most lawmakers do not play favorites when they target lobbyists for their cash and connections.

Lawrence said he was proof.

"I'm not one of the big givers, but that doesn't seem to stop them from inviting me," Lawrence said.