Protesters at the capitol in Raleigh, North Carolina. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Outside in the muggy afternoon sun, “Moral Monday” activists today are holding their tenth demonstration on the grassy Halifax Mall lawn behind the state legislative building in North Carolina. A broad coalition of activists have staged the demos, which often result in arrests for engaging in civil disobedience, to protest a tidal wave of right-wing legislation, including new restrictions on voting, corporate tax cuts funded in part by tax hikes on the poor, the decision to block the Medicaid expansion, a so-called “Ag-Gag” bill blocking reporting on industrial farming, an expansion in loosely regulated fracking, and beyond.
Indoors, at ritzy venues like the penthouse Cardinal Club of the Wells Fargo skyscraper overlooking the state capital, corporate lobbyists have thrown an elaborate set of parties for Governor Pat McCrory and state legislative leaders.
The success of big business-friendly legislation this session is largely the result of McCrory’s victory in November, replacing Democrat Bev Perdue, who had been a check on the Republican-held legislature. Now, Republican leaders face few barriers in enacting their agenda, which in many cases reflects the interests of large companies with business in the state.
A review of 2013 state lobbying disclosures by The Nation reveals that lobbyists have not only been generous with campaign contributions. They are also cultivating influence the old fashion way, through expensive meals and parties:
• The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, a trade group led by executives from Bank of America, Cisco and other firms, has spent $29,011 this year on catered events, which have included lawmakers, legislators and Governor McCrory. The governor attended the group’s reception at the Umstead Hotel & Spa. Lawmakers were treated to a party at the North Carolina Museum of History.
• The American Petroleum Institute, a trade association for oil and drilling companies, hosted a reception at the Cardinal Club with state legislators that cost $3,080. At the same venue, API also hosted a reception that cost $2,897 for three state senators, including Bob Rucho, who is leading the effort to fast-track fracking in the state.