@NCCapitol

Top NC lobbyists shift to right

Posted July 31, 2012 1:03 p.m. EDT
Updated July 31, 2012 6:24 p.m. EDT

— A biennial ranking of the most influential lobbyists at the General Assembly shows a changing of the guard.

Many of the top lobbyists now have Republican ties, supplanting Democratic supporters and fundraisers who spent years ranked in the Top 10 when that party controlled the General Assembly.

"I think that change in the political landscape gave people some opportunities to come into the rankings of the most influential for the first time," said Ran Coble, executive director of the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research. "There's no accident, I think, as a result, that you've got 22 newcomers who've never been ranked before."

The nonpartisan center assembles the rankings based on surveys of lawmakers, lobbyists and reporters who cover the legislature.

The top-rated lobbyist for the 2011-12 was Raleigh lawyer Dana Simpson, who was ranked 14th in the 2009-10 session. He represents Progress Energy, WakeMed and AT&T, as well as several health care and biotechnology clients.

Former Raleigh Mayor Tom Fetzer, who had never been ranked previously, was No. 2 on the latest list. Fetzer, who also was chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party when it gained control of the state House and Senate in 2010 for the first time in more than a century, represents several cities, WakeMed, Duke Energy and other groups.

Raleigh lawyer John McMillan fell from the top rank in 2009-2010 to No. 4 on the list. Meanwhile, attorney Zeb Alley, who was ranked first or second for more than a decade and was never lower than sixth since the early 1990s, tumbled all the way to 24th.

The industries that employ the Top 10 lobbyists most often in the latest rankings include energy companies, health care and pharmaceuticals firms, banking and insurance entities and real estate brokers and developers.

Nearly 800 people are registered as lobbyists in North Carolina, which is four times as many as a decade ago.