From Al Gore to Thom Tillis: GOP-appointed UNC BOG chairman’s strange political journey

It’s not unusual for big campaign contributors to get plum appointments from elected officials.  Charlotte’s John Fennebresque is definitely a big donor.  Check out these numbers:


If my math is right, THAT is $182,020 in campaign contributions since 2000.  (And that is JUST to candidates for FEDERAL races.)  Fennebresque got himself appointed to the board of governors by the legislature, and won the chairman’s spot.    Fennebresque’s tenure has already been marked with some public complaining by board members about the chairman’s alleged kowtowing to UNC administration and faculty.

Conservatives hoping that the GOP takeover in Raleigh would result in serious reforms were surely frustrated by the business-as-usual appointmgoreents of high-dollar campaign contributors seeking another line-item on their LinkedIn profiles. Interestingly, some of these donors were not exactly GOP stalwarts.  Thom Tillis got some bad publicity for strong-arming the appointment of an out-of-state Democrat who had hooked Tillis up with some serious cash money.

Fennebresque has tossed some serious dollars into campaign coffers over the years.  But — for the chairman of a GOP-dominated board — there have been some surprising recipients of Fennebresque’s generosity.  According to FEC records, Fennebresque gave $1000 to Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign.  (We couldn’t find ANY record of donations to George W. Bush.) 


It gets, um, *better.*  From 2001 to 2004, he gave Democrat US Senate candidate Erskine Bowles $4000.  (Bowles ran against Elizabeth Dole in 2002 and Richard Burr in 2004.)  Fennebresque gave $1000 to Elizabeth Dole’s presidential campaign in 1999, but there is no record of a donation to her 2002 or 2008 Senate campaigns. Fennebresque’s first donation to Burr ($2500) came in his 2010 campaign against Elaine Marshall. 

In 1998, Fennebresque gave $500 to Democrat D.G. Martin who was then running in the Democrat primary to oppose Republican Lauch Faircloth.  (We could find no record of a donation to Faircloth.)

In 2011, Fennebresque gave $10,000 in soft money to The YG (Young Guns) PAC, an Eric Cantor-founded group that got involved in GOP primaries against Tea Party candidates.

In 2012, Fennebresque gave $5000 to Concord 51 PAC,  a  NYC-based group described by its founder as a vehicle for the GOP to build “enthusiasm around a set of conservative values that are more appealing to younger voters, they say — more inclusive of gays, minorities and women — the bigger tent that the GOP needs to build if it wants to win national elections.”thom sigh

That PAC seems to be right up Fennebresque’s alley.  His law firm, McGuireWoods, is fanatical about the concept of “diversity’‘ in the workplace.     That should make him quite an interesting witness in the lawsuit against UNC for alleged using racial quotas in their admissions policies. 

One of our faithful readers in the legal community sent us this info from the Charlotte area bar association promoting a Charlotte legal diversity clerkship sponsored by Fennebresque’s firm.  If you read between the lines, it basically says: Straight, white males need not apply. 

From 2013 to 2014, Fennebresque and his wife dumped $7800  total on Thom Tillis’s Senate campaign.

If you’re still sitting around hoping for some common sense, conservative reform within the UNC system — GOOD LUCK.  (And don’t hold your breath … )