Loading...
The Mayor and City Council have an annual budget of over $450,000 per year dedicated to themselves for salary, training...

Legislators should tell us who's paying them

Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell is editor of the Insider State Government News Service.

Loading…

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Serving as speaker of the House has been good for Tim Moore's bank account.

The job of speaker isn't itself lucrative: $38,151 annually, plus $104 a day for housing and food when the legislature is in session. That's a decent income for many North Carolinians, but it's not going to buy you that sports car you've been eyeing.

So Moore — like a lot of his colleagues in what's still considered a part-time legislature — keeps his original job. He's a small-town lawyer who handles a wide variety of legal matters out of a cottage-turned-office in downtown Kings Mountain.

The firm might look modest, but Moore's legal services are in high demand. A few months after he was elected speaker, the Cleveland County commissioners decided to ditch their longtime attorney and hire Moore to advise them.

While some local governments pay lobbyists to represent them in Raleigh, Moore's home county decided it would be smarter to pay one of the most powerful people in the state to attend every commission meeting. Moore also serves as attorney for his county's public utility.

Moore's legal client base extends far outside Cleveland County. The North Carolina Bail Agents Association paid him $10,000 for work involving the N.C. Department of Insurance in 2012. Later that year — after Moore was no longer on the group's payroll — the legislature passed a law that gave the association a monopoly in providing required bail bond training. Moore recused himself from the vote, but anonymous allegations that claim he was involved behind the scenes have drawn the interest of the FBI.

Moore also did legal work for Durham businessman Neal Hunter, a few years after Moore sponsored legislation that intervened on Hunter's behalf in a dispute with Durham officials over a new development project, The News & Observer reported.

Moore's work for the businessman and the bail association prompted a review from Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, who announced last month that she'd "found no misuse of public office for private gain or other wrongdoing as to these payments."

Moore's actions appear to be perfectly legal, according to Freeman. But it's still likely some of Moore's clients are hiring him because of his political power instead of his legal prowess. And while Moore may be following ethics rules and keeping legal work separate from legislative work, the current system is easy to abuse.

The legislature is chock full of lawyers, and none of them are required to publicly disclose who's paying them for legal work. It's inevitable that at some point, some lawmaker will take a check for legal services and then sponsor a bill on that client's behalf. And it's possible that the public will never know about it.

There's an easy solution to this: Elected officials should be required to list all legal clients on their ethics forms. They're already required to list their business interests, major investments and real-estate holdings, so legal work should be no exception.

Lawyers, of course, will claim that such a rule would violate attorney-client privilege. That problem would be easily solved by having elected officials' legal clients sign a form agreeing to the public disclosure.

Or we could go a step further — make serving in the House and Senate a full-time job with full-time pay, and ban legislators from taking on outside employment while in office.

Taxpayers would spend more on legislative salaries, but they'd know that their representatives are working exclusively for them. We'd have fewer political scandals and greater confidence in government.

And House Speaker Tim Moore wouldn't have to worry about answering questions from the FBI, or making sure the legislative session is over in time to attend a county commission meeting three hours away.

Colin Campbell is editor of the Insider State Government News Service.

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

February 15, 2019 - 13 minutes ago

On Bleecker Street in Manhattan, you can find both a Planned Parenthood clinic and a boutique for pregnant women.

According to Vogue, the store, Hatch, "is arguably the first of its kind, in that it was designed specifically for pregnant shoppers: Changing rooms have a size chart to help you figure…

kathrynlopez

February 15, 2019 - 13 minutes ago

The decision by Virginia's top three elected officials to hunker down and cling to their jobs is bad for both the state and the Democratic Party. If they won't go, the only thing to do is investigate them all.

Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring have all…

Eugene Robinson

February 14, 2019

Of all the headlines about the scandals concerning the alleged past sins of one after another high official in Virginia, one struck me most poignantly. It was this, from the front page of The Washington Times:

"Democrats to vet candidates closely for secrets in past."

Maybe I have spent too much…

February 13, 2019

As our new legislative session fully uncoils, it's good to recall that just a few weeks ago workers in 20 states saw an increase in the minimum wage. The federal minimum, $7.25, was last raised in 2009. Since then, 29 states and dozens of cities and counties have chosen to exceed the federal floor.…

Gene Nichol

February 13, 2019

President Trump, in his State of the Union speech, broadly and wrongly portrayed illegal immigrants as murderers, rapists and drug dealers who must be stopped. But Trump does not limit his anti-immigrant zeal to them. In service to Trump, authorities are now handcuffing and shackling non-citizens…

Take Back North Carolina Press Conferece - US Attorney Robert Higdon speaks at press conference.jpg

February 13, 2019

Ten states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Twenty-two other states, along with U.S. territories Puerto Rico and Guam, allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes. Let's examine some hidden issues about marijuana use.

Before we start, permit me to…

Walter Williams

February 12, 2019

Serving as speaker of the House has been good for Tim Moore's bank account.

The job of speaker isn't itself lucrative: $38,151 annually, plus $104 a day for housing and food when the legislature is in session. That's a decent income for many North Carolinians, but it's not going to buy you that…

Colin Campbell

February 11, 2019

North Carolina's franchise tax is a punitive and opaque tax levied on businesses organized under one of the usual corporate forms. It is inconsistent with both good economics and good government and should be abolished.

Conceptually the franchise tax is quite simple. It is a tax on the net value or…

Roy Cordato

February 11, 2019

There is a reason why most rural communities in North Carolina do not have broadband speeds of 25 megabytes per second, even after the state has spent more than $500 million on infrastructure over the last 10 years.

According to internet service providers, or ISPs, it is simply not profitable to…

021019bunnysanders

February 11, 2019

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Despite threats, pleas, and entreaties from senators and citizens, Democrats and Republicans, former governors and most of the General Assembly, Ralph Northam remains Virginia’s chief executive — at least the last time we checked. And it appears, according to the…

317 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 32
        Next Page»   Last Page»