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Voter ID bill may tighten ‘bundling’ by lobbyists

By Rick Rothacker
rrothacker@charlotteobserver.com

A sweeping elections bill that was moving through the state Senate on Wednesday would make it more difficult for lobbyists to “bundle” contributions for state candidates.

The legislation would make it illegal for lobbyists to collect checks from one or multiple donors and deliver them to state candidates. Previously, lobbyists were prohibited only from collecting contributions from multiple donors and delivering them to candidates, which is known as bundling.

The measure comes after a Charlotte law firm faced scrutiny for delivering contributions from the gaming industry in the past election.

The provision was tucked inside a broader nearly 60-page bill that would cut the number of early voting days, require voters to show government-issued IDs and eliminate several forms of registration. An earlier House version did not include the measure, but it was part of a substitute bill that emerged Tuesday from the Senate Rules and Operations Committee.

The General Assembly tightened restrictions on lobbyists in 2006 after a series of scandals, including the prosecution of former Democratic House Speaker Jim Black for lobbying law violations. That law also prohibited lobbyists from making contributions themselves.

The latest bill follows revelations this year that Chase Burns, an Oklahoma provider of gaming software who has been indicted in Florida, was the biggest contributor to North Carolina candidates in the past election cycle. Burns made many of his contributions through lobbyists from Moore & Van Allen, the Charlotte law firm where Gov. Pat McCrory worked until shortly before his inauguration.

Jane Pinsky, director of the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying & Government Reform, said the measure “looks good,” noting it makes it “impossible to physically move a check from one person to another.”

But she said the provision doesn’t appear to address a bigger problem: the ability of lobbyists to solicit contributions on behalf of candidates by sending emails or forwarding fundraiser invitations.

“It would depend on how they define ‘collect,’ ” Pinsky said. “I would say it should be anything that facilitates someone making contributions at your request.”

Sen. Bob Rucho, a Matthews Republican, is a major force behind the Senate legislation, spending two hours on Tuesday defending the broader bill. Critics have said the bill would make it harder for the elderly, poor, minorities and students to vote.

Rucho could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

(Raleigh) News & Observer staff writer John Frank contributed.

Rothacker: 358-5170
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