More lobbyists, more closed doors

State House Republicans aren't the only caucus inviting lobbyists into closed-door policy meetings.

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It looks like House Speaker Thom Tillis was right yesterday when he said he doubted his caucus was the only one to hold closed-door meetings with lobbyists.

Senator David Rouzer, R-Johnston, said today during a taping of On The Record that the Senate Republican caucus has invited lobbyists into closed-door meetings, too: “I remember in particular the Beach Plan.” 

"You know, there was confusion about the Beach Plan and exactly what it entailed, and members wanted to get the straight on what was what," Rouzer said. "Lobbyists are a very important resource in terms of knowledge base, and I remember we had one or two come in and explain what the situation was.”

Lobbyist John McMillan confirms he talked about the Beach Plan at the 2009 closed-door caucus meeting Rouzer mentioned.

McMillan was registered that year to represent the North Carolina Insurance Federation, the American Insurance Association, and Allstate, organizations with big money at stake in the legislature’s rewrite of the state’s coastal property insurance pool.

“People go in to talk to groups on a frequent basis,” McMillan said. “It’s been going on for years. It’s not unusual for them to reach out to get information from folks. If we’re asked to come in and give information, we do that.”

McMillan said he speaks to lawmakers all the time, individually and in small and large groups. He couldn’t recall if he had been invited to talk to caucus meetings of House or Senate Democrats.

Two other major lobbyists who asked not to be named confirmed that they too had attended Senate GOP caucus meetings in the not-too-distant past.

Senate Leader Phil Berger’s chief of staff Jim Blaine said yesterday that “Senate Republican caucuses are for senators only. If they want to speak to staff, they ask to speak to staff. Otherwise, I can’t comment on what happens in caucus.”

Asked to comment on today’s developments, Berger spokeswoman Amy Auth responded, “We don’t discuss what happens in caucus. But I can say that lobbyists have not attended any Senate Republican caucus meeting this year.”

Watch the whole discussion on WRAL's On The Record, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. 

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