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Let’s Play Follow the Money – Part 3

Jay Ovittore June 22, 2009 Community Networks, Public Policy & Gov't 1 Comment

welcomencIn the last two installments I covered the North Carolina legislators that had a hand in HB1252/S1004, legislation that would have severely curtailed municipal broadband projects in this state, and how they were involved in bringing the bills to the floor. I am now going to focus on some powerful, long term state senators, who have a very influential vote on the Senate floor.

R.C. Soles (D-Brunswick, Pender & Columbus Counties) has served for 17 terms. Soles, as he is not a co-sponsor or sponsor, does carry great influence in the Senate and can gather votes. Soles took a lot of money from the cable/telecom industry in 2008, $7500 in total. From Embarq he took $2000, Time Warner $1000, AT&T PAC $4000, and from the Sprint/Nextel PAC he took $500.

Senator Tom Apodaca (R-Buncombe, Henderson and Polk Counties) is a four term senator who also took a bundle of money from the cable/telecom industry in 2008. In total he received $12500 in contributions. Embarq gave $3000, Time Warner $2500, AT&T PAC $4000, Sprint/Nextel PAC $1000, and AT&T Mobility Employees PAC $2000. There was also a suspicious contribution from one “Jasie Barringer.Barringer is listed as a housewife and self employed, but in reality she is more likely the chairman of RH Barringer Beverage Distributors (Anheuser-Busch), which is well known to me as it’s here in Greensboro. They also appear to have used a business address for the contribution, which is illegal in North Carolina. I will be filing a complaint with the State Board of Elections.

Senator Dan Clodfelter (D-Mecklenburg County/City of Charlotte), is the six term senator who sits with with Sen. Hoyle of the Revenue Laws Joint Sub-Committee, where they are trying to direct HB1252/S1004. Clodfelter also took a lot of money from the cable/telecom industry, $10250 in total. Embarq contributed $1500, Time Warner $2250, AT&T $2000, NC Cable PAC $2500, Sprint/Nextel PAC $500, NC Association of Broadcasters $500 and NC Broadcast PAC gave $1000.

There are a few other influential legislators in the House and Senate, but they are a little harder to track because of their positions of power. Speaker of the House, Rep. Joe Hackney and President Pro Tempore of the Senate Marc Basnight hold a considerable amount of power and influence, and receive a lot of money from everyone. This makes it a little harder to track. Basnight received $18500 in contributions from the cable/telecom industry and Speaker Hackney received $21000 in contributions.  While this is a lot of industry money, it’s not out of proportion from what they receive from every industry PAC that contributes to their campaign coffers.

If you have not read the first two installments here at Stop the Cap!, they can be found here and here. I will follow up when the first quarter reports become available for 2009.

It’s important to note that in all three articles, acceptance of political contributions in no way implies criminal activity.  It does imply that money from big donors can create a climate of influence with legislators.  This is the culture of politics, whether it is in North Carolina, Washington, or your local city council. Until we can remove the influence of industry PAC money on elected officials, the lobbies for these industries can continue to have the upper hand on the common citizen and what is good for us, unless we stand up and make our voices heard.

The information gleaned from here in North Carolina underlines this point, and I encourage you to review campaign finance reports to investigate why an elected official would be so insistent on standing against consumer and constituent interests.  Not every legislator that accepts contributions automatically means they will not stand with their constituents.  Many will.  But for those who do not, this can help explain why.  Should you require assistance locating, searching, or investigating the tricks of the campaign finance trade, feel free to contact me.

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