Ordinarily, when we think about legislatures, we imagine private-sector lobbyists pressuring lawmakers, and in some cases, even making threats. Once in a great while, however, the tables turn -- and lawmakers starting leaning on lobbyists.
WRAL in Raleigh, N.C., reported last night on an unexpected twist in the fight over the state's controversial new anti-LGBT law.
While Republican state leaders have complained about being "bullied" by the federal government over House Bill 2, lobbyists in Raleigh tell WRAL News they and the businesses they represent are being bullied by state lawmakers seeking to silence business opposition to the new law.Lobbyists say they've been told -- either directly by legislative leaders or by lawmakers' staff -- that, if they or the businesses they represent speak out publicly against House Bill 2, they can expect retribution from House and Senate leaders.Legislation they want won't move, and other bills could actually target them.
One longtime lobbyist told WRAL that the pressure from elected officials is a "gross abuse of power," while another veteran lobbyist added, "I've never seen anything like it."
In all, WRAL said it spoke to 11 lobbyists in Raleigh, North Carolina's capital, who said they've either felt pressure directly to stay silent on HB2 or they're aware of the campaign. Not surprisingly given the circumstances, none of the 11 was willing to go on the record, and the Republican leadership denied any wrongdoing.
The obvious problem with bullying tactics like these is that elected lawmakers aren't supposed to go around threatening lobbyists into submission. The idea that North Carolina's GOP majority would make governing decisions based on whether or not a business approved of a discrimination bill raises serious questions about abuses.
But just below the surface, there's a separate, nagging concern: didn't North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) assure us that state businesses like HB2?
The Greensboro News & Record noted last month. “McCrory has claimed that a large number of businesses supported the law, but his office has not listed those companies despite many media requests.”
The same report included this gem:
NC Values Coalition, which urged passage of the law, claimed in a Tuesday news release that it had a list of more than 300 North Carolina businesses which had pledged support for HB 2. Claiming that most businesses feared retaliation if their support was made public, the group released a list of 17 companies it said had agreed to openly support the law.But the largest and most influential of the companies on that list – HanesBrands of Winston-Salem – said it doesn’t support the law and asked to be removed. […]When asked about the veracity of the rest of the list, [NC Values Coalition spokeswoman Kami Mueller] clarified that it actually represents more than 300 individuals, not businesses…. When asked if there was a chance that other people on the list might not be authorized to represent their companies, Mueller said: “There’s a chance of everything. There’s a chance I could get hit by a bus.”
Watch this space.