Local News

N.C. Lobbyist Laws Draw Mixed Reactions

Posted January 11, 2006 9:44 a.m. EST

— Whether it's powerhouse lobbyist Jack Abramoff making national news over money fueled corruption, or former North Carolina lottery commissioner Kevin Geddings taking thousands of dollars in undisclosed fees, ethical questions of influence are getting people's attention.

"There's seriously a high level of interest with the lobbyists," said NC Secretary Of State Elaine Marshall.

That's why Marshall, who regulates lobbyists, was among the speakers at a conference organized by the state Bar Association. Lobbyists who've given a voice to causes for years are now scrambling to figure out how new reforms affect them.

"The volume of filings that will hit the Secretary of State's office if the law stays just like it is is just overwhelming," said attorney and lobbyist Bill Scoggin.

The new statute closes some loopholes and will require lobbyists report any gifts, entertainment, or trips for lawmakers, whether they talk legislation or not. Yet, some language in the law is creating confusion.

"Expenditures as defined in the new act could be equated by a prosecutor to bribery, and clearly that's not what the legislature wanted to do," said Scoggin.

"Anytime there's change, there's always concern, given the high profile things that have happened," said Marshall.

Marshall believes clarification will come over lobbying, and hopefully higher public confidence in how our laws get passed.

New lobbying laws are set to take effect in 2007, but there's a push to put reforms in place this year. With that goal, Marshall asked Gov. Mike Easley this week to allocate $250,000 for staffing and planning to step up lobbying regulations as soon as possible.