Report: Pay-to-play, the Jason Saine way.

 

A non-profit watchdog that has bedeviled Speaker Timmy in recent months and years has now set its sights on a certain tubby little parasite from Lincoln County.  The Campaign for Accountability (CfA) has issued a report detailing the rather interesting timing between campaign contributions to state Rep. Jason Saine and actions Saine takes on behalf of said donors:

 

 

North Carolina State Representative Jason Saine is a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives and has represented the 97th House district since 2011.[1]  In 2018, Rep. Saine served as the national chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”), which, according to The News & Observer, is “a conservative group backed by corporations that proposes model legislation for state legislators to introduce”.[2]

 

In his role as a state legislator, Rep. Saine is a notably adept fundraiser. Since his appointment to the General Assembly, Rep. Saine has raised at least $784,600 in campaign contributions from a wide variety of special interest groups.[3]  For instance, he has accepted $60,000 from telecom companies like AT&T and Time Warner Cable, and he has also pocketed $2,750 from animal rights activists.[4]

 

While state legislators must raise a lot of money to fund their campaigns, Rep. Saine’s fundraising is among the most successful in the North Carolina General Assembly. According to his resume, Rep. Saine is a “Top 5 fundraiser in the [North Carolina] House Republican Caucus,” boasting of raising over $200,000 each cycle.[5]  Rep. Saine’s fundraising haul is notable because he ran unopposed in the 2016 election, and he has not faced a serious challenger since his first election in 2012.[6]

Furthermore, Rep. Saine has used this campaign cash to support a lavish lifestyle. During recent election cycles, Rep. Saine has spent tens of thousands of dollars on expensive restaurants, luxury hotels, and extensive travel.  Much of his spending occurs outside North Carolina and does not appear to be directly connected to legitimate campaign activity.[7]

For instance, Rep. Saine used campaign funds to pay for meals at trendy out-of-state restaurants such as Washington, D.C.’s The Hamilton, where a $291.72 meal is inexplicably listed as “lodging,” and Boston’s Oak+Rowan.[8] Rep. Saine has also used campaign funds for numerous out-of-state hotel stays in locations such as Las Vegas, Nevada, St. Petersburg, Florida, Cincinnati, Ohio, Charleston, South Carolina, Mclean, Virginia, and Chicago, Illinois as well as for several stays at high end hotels, including at the Westin in Stamford, Connecticut ($1,247.16), the W San Francisco ($719.79), and the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington, D.C ($336.70).[9] Rep. Saine has also charged thousands of dollars in airfare to his campaign account.

 

Rep. Saine’s in-state campaign purchases are no less decadent. He routinely expenses thousands of dollars in food purchases, including dinners and catering at expensive venues such as the City Club Raleigh ($7,857.29), Sullivan’s ($1,000.21), and the Lincoln Country Club ($4,555.98).[10] He has also used his campaign account to pay for rental cars, including a $1,328.37 payment to Enterprise in his hometown of Lincolnton, NC.[11] Perhaps most notably, Rep. Saine spent more than $19,000 on clothes and tailored suits in 2015, all charged to his campaign account.[12]

 

To fund this lifestyle, Rep. Saine has introduced a bevy of bills to benefit special interests. A review of Rep. Saine’s campaign finance reports and legislative history reveals that he has introduced or sponsored 23 bills that appear to be written for the benefit of specific industries that contributed to his campaign committee. 

Furthermore, despite being a self-proclaimed “champion for conservative causes” and a former national chairman of ALEC, an organization “dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism,” Rep. Saine has sponsored bills either to skew regulation in the direction of his campaign donors or to support specific donors such as animal rights activists and green energy advocates, neither of which are generally ideological allies of conservatives.[13] 

Of the 23 bills Rep. Saine introduced that appear to benefit his campaign donors, eleven passed out of the North Carolina House of Representatives and four were signed into law.

 

While politicians often accept campaign contributions from the industries they regulate, Rep. Saine appears to have outstripped his fellow public officials in his efforts to use his legislative position to benefit his campaign donors.  This report reveals nine egregious, previously unreported examples of Rep. Saine’s efforts to introduce bills for the apparent benefit of his campaign donors, providing him with campaign cash used to fund a high-flying lifestyle. […] 

 

 

One example cited by the report indicates Saine’s actions have been criticized by at least one of his Republican colleagues:

 

[…] Less than a year after outdoor advertisers contributed $2,750 to Rep. Saine’s campaign, on April 5, 2017, Rep. Saine introduced four bills designed to benefit the outdoor advertising industry:

  • H.B. 581: “An act to promote uniformity of regulation and modernization of outdoor advertising, to increase permit fees for outdoor advertising, and to establish a reasonable time frame for making agency decisions regarding permits and appeals.”[66]
  • H.B. 580: “An act to allow for the relocation and reconstruction of off-premises outdoor advertising.”[67]
  • H.B. 579: “An act to clarify the standards for determining just compensation for the removal of off-premises outdoor advertising.”[68]
  • H.B. 578: “An act to increase selective vegetation removal permit fees and to clarify standards for selective vegetation removal.”[69]

Press reports and available bill summaries indicate these bills were favorable to the industry but also somewhat controversial. For example, the Associated Press reported that H.B. 581 would “bring more financial compensation to owners of roadside billboards” and would “[allow] traditional signs to be replaced more easily with digital signs.”[70] However, when the North Carolina House voted down the bill, Rep. Jay Adams, a Republican, “called the bill ‘crony capitalism,’ using government ‘to preserve an obsolete business.’”[71]

“When the North Carolina House voted down [Rep. Saine’s outdoor advertising] bill, Rep. Jay Adams, a Republican, ‘called the bill ‘crony capitalism,’ using government ‘to preserve an obsolete business.’’”

Additionally, WRAL reportedH.B. 580 would “make it easier for a billboard owner to find a new location for a billboard that has to be relocated due to road construction or development. The owner could basically pick a new location as long as it’s zoned the same as the old one.”[72] Similarly, WRAL said H.B. 579 “would increase what billboard owners must be paid if their billboards are condemned and not relocated.”[73] According to their respective bill summaries, these bills would also have prohibited cities and counties from enacting ordinances that could hinder outdoor advertisers’ ability to relocate or reconstruct their outdoor advertising signs.[74]

H.B. 578 contains many small, technical changes to provisions governing outdoor advertisers that presumably would have been favorable to the industry.[75]

None of Rep. Saine’s outdoor advertising bills passed the North Carolina House. Nevertheless, the North Carolina Outdoor Advertising Association donated another $1,000 to Rep. Saine on November 26, 2018.[76]  […] 

 

 

I couldn’t agree MORE with the report’s conclusion:

 

[…] Rep. Saine appears to have used his legislative position repeatedly to introduce legislation for the benefit of his campaign donors.  While many legislators accept campaign contributions from industries affected by their legislation, the extent to which Rep. Saine appears to have worked for the benefit of special interest groups seems unusual.  Beyond accepting industry contributions, Rep. Saine has used his campaign cash to reward himself with a luxurious lifestyle.

Public officials should introduce legislation for the benefit of the public interest. When public officials support legislation to narrowly benefit their donors, it erodes confidence in our institutions.

 

Come on, Lincoln County.  You can do better than THIS.

2 thoughts on “Report: Pay-to-play, the Jason Saine way.

  1. I ran against Rep. Saine in the GOP Primary in 2016. But with such a massive war chest, and so many favors owed to him for his pet bills he pushes, he is untouchable in this county. Despite a raft of issues were are dealing with, such as over development, to the point our water towers are empty in the summer months, as well as some of the deadliest intersections in the states, Rep. Saine almost appears to be our his districts petty problems, and is simply abiding his time for a more lucrative position and more influence to peddle. Sadly Lincoln County is essentially left voiceless in the state.

  2. i think his position on the outdoor billboards seems good, appropriate and commendable. I know the sophisticated, heady, high-minded, don’t want those uncouth billboards cluttering our preppy environment, so uncouth, but billboards are a major opportunity for free speech (unless the billboard owner is become like Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, CNN, NBC, ABC…) And sad to say, i think they are. I don’t fault Saine on the billboards; i think he did good. The title of your article, “Pay to Play”, made me think you were referring to Jason’s promotion of “sports gambling”. Billboards ok, gambling not ok. …and Jason, tone it down on the food. “…but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” This life is but a vapor, that appears but a short time, and then is vanished. and then comes the Judgment of every work, whether good or bad. Then is when the regret comes, Yea, terror.
    Here’s something for legislators to ponder https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOjWzpAjjWw

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