#ncga: A lawyer problem

I  must confess.  I have little to no use for most lawyers.  It’s an occupation where one is paid big bucks to lie, obfuscate, tap dance around and stomp all over ethics and morality and those sorts of things.

They have no real skills — short of running their mouths.  Yet they are over-represented in the ranks of government — telling the rest of us what is good for us, what is bad for us, and how we are going to live our lives.  

A friend who used to serve in the NC House tells me members, who also happen to be practicing attorneys, spent most of their time in the lobby outside the chamber running their practices via cell phone. A whip would come out and tell them its time to vote and how to vote. Few spent any time listening to debate inside the chamber.

Now, let’s focus on this piece of info from the Raleigh drivebys today:

[…] He said attorney-client privilege prevents him from identifying private clients. In addition, state ethics laws do not require state lawmakers who are private attorneys to identify their clients. The lawmakers do have to recuse themselves in votes involving their clients.[….] 

“HE” is House speaker Tim Moore, arguably one of the most powerful people in state government.  One would imagine having one of the two top dogs on Jones Street as your attorney gives you quite the leg up when dealing with state government.

I can understand attorney-client privilege  blocking the revelation of private discussions between an attorney and his client.  But NOT the identification of private clients.  THAT happens all the time in county courthouses.  At the clerk’s office, you can regularly and easily access lists of parties to cases and their corresponding attorneys.   Moore’s claim here does not pass the smell test.

Why wouldn’t the question  of whether you’ve done things officially for someone who has paid money into your private business be part of the whole ethics process?  It all looks so tailor-made for corruption. 

And not recusing yourself?  How is it kosher to vote for something that benefits someone who has paid money into your personal business?

Moore apparently has a “satellite” law office in Raleigh.  With all the high-dollar white shoe firms already in Raleigh, what interest would there be in a small country firm from Cleveland County?  (If the lawyer running said firm is the speaker of the NC House — PLENTY.) It’s a fine line between this and lobbying — which requires all kinds of disclosure and reports.

Here is the gist of what got the drivebys so interested in young Timmy:

A short time into Anne Whitaker’s tenure as chief executive officer of KNOW Bio, a Triangle-based pharmaceutical start-up, she learned of a legal services contract given to an attorney she had never heard of.

The company already had lawyers handling internal and external matters and she didn’t understand why KNOW Bio needed yet another lawyer — one whose services she felt were of questionable value for a company that in early 2017 was barely a year old.

The lawyer was Tim Moore, a Cleveland County Republican and speaker of the N.C. House — one of the state’s three most powerful officials. When she learned the details of his contract and his work, which struck her as federal lobbying, she said she terminated it with the support of company board members.

“He was working on really, something about how [limited liability corporations] were treated, the tax treatment of LLCs, as well as trying to drive awareness around antibiotic resistance with, I guess with, the politicians, and trying to get incentives for antibiotics to be developed,” Whitaker said. “At least that’s what I understand his purpose was, but we were a small company, and to me it wasn’t a priority.”

Whitaker said KNOW Bio’s co-founder and board chairman Neal Hunter had given Moore the contract. What Whitaker, who left the company in April, said she didn’t know is that four years earlier, Moore as the powerful Rules Committee chairman had helped Hunter with a controversial development that was in danger of failing.Moore ran legislation that forced the city of Durham to provide water and sewer for the 751 South project, which will place 1,300 residences and 600,000 square feet of offices and shops on 166 acres near Jordan Lake.

Hunter sold the land to the developers, Alex Mitchell of Durham and Tyler Morris of Raleigh, for $18 million a decade ago. He received $8 million up front and financed the rest, with interest, and he obtained a non-voting share in their company. Hunter and Mitchell are cousins.

Mitchell is a friend and campaign supporter of Moore’s. In 2015, when Moore became speaker, the House voted Mitchell to the UNC Board of Governors. State election records show since 2013, Mitchell and his wife have contributed $30,300 to Moore’s campaign fund; Hunter and his wife have given $33,300.[…] 

*Nope.  Move along.  Nothing to see here ….*

9 thoughts on “#ncga: A lawyer problem

  1. A new Republican speaker, who put emphasis on GOP principles, instead of being on the take from special interests would sure be a breath of fresh air.

  2. Florence left a lot of smelly household belongings and personal effects on many curbs in New Bern and other effected cities and towns but this seems to pass the smell test even less. I guess service on Jines Street is akin to serving on Capitol Hill. What was the famous Harry Truman quote, “the only politicians who get rich … … …… “.

    1. Of course, the liberal media like the Raliegh Nuisance and Disturber looked the other way when Democrats did exactly the same thing, and want to make a big story of it on the eve of an election for Republicans.

      One remembers Marc Basnight, for example, who hardly had a pot to pee in when he was first elected. Basnight in 1984 had tax liens and judgments against what assets he had. But when he left the Senate after years as Senate President, he was a multi-millionaire. Funny thing about that.

      One had hoped our Republicans would select leaders who would be better than that in the sense of not abusing their office for personal gain..

      1. A lot of us worked very hard to replace the corrupt Democrats. Now we’ve got our own version of Jim Black as Speaker.

        Dudes, this isn’t what we had in mind.

  3. The political playing field has changed, whether we like it or not. Political battles are increasingly ending up the courtroom. True, we do not need NC legislators who are real estate attorneys, or contract lawyers, or other types of paper-pushing holders of a law degree. On the other hand, it would probably be useful to have a few GOP legislators who are actual courtroom attorneys — they might do a better job of drafting certain laws in anticipation of future legal challenges than, say, a tractor dealer, or an insurance agent, or a real estate lawyer. (And courtroom attorneys would probably know enough not to put sensitive information in emails, since they may later be required to turn such correspondence over to the opposition, in the middle of a lawsuit.)

    1. It is not just a lawyer problem, although lawyers have an obvious route to monetize their service in the General Assembly. Marc Basnight made himself a multi-millionaire off of his position as Senate President without being a lawyer. It is more of a power problem.

      What needs to be done is to curtail the power of the leadership. In the House, for many decades there was a tradition of one term Speakers. That prevented an excessive accumulation of power in the hands of one individual. Then Carl Stewart (D-Gaston) decided he wanted to be a two term Speaker and got away with it, followed by Liston Ramsey (D-Madison) who decided he wanted to be Speaker for Life. Since we have politicians who do not respect tradition, we should have a Constitutional term limit on the House Speaker. Until the election of Jim Gardner as Lt., Governor in 1988, power was divided in the Senate between the Lt. Governor and the Senate President, but the Democrats stripped Gardner of all but a handful of Constitution based powers and concentrated the power in the Senate President. Giving the Lt. Governor back the legislative powers that office held prior to Gardner would solve the power problem in the Senate.

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