For a fee: spot in Morgan 'cabinet'
RALEIGH - More than 20 business leaders, including some Triangle executives, have contributed $4,000 each to join state House Co-speaker Richard Morgan's election-year "business council."
In return for the contributions, which go into the coffers of the Republican's re-election campaign, members are granted ready e-mail and telephone access to the co-speaker as well as invitations to roundtable discussions and social events.
Pat Gavaghan of Raleigh-based Keystone Corp. says he joined to bend Morgan's ear on economic development issues.
"Economic development is a major problem on the horizon in this state, and I wanted to voice my opinions," he says. "Is it buying access? Well, I guess it might be. But it isn't buying anything for me at Keystone. I haven't asked him to do anything for me at Keystone, and I won't."
Other Triangle joiners include Allen Fine of Investors Title Co., Duane Long of Longistics, John Coley of D.R. Bryan & Co., and Brent McMahon of Miller & Long Construction.
"Other than being a Republican, I got involved because I thought it was an opportunity to talk to some fellow, like-minded business people," says McMahon. "It offers a chance to get an idea where things are headed. But there isn't any quid pro quo."
Morgan says the council connects him to the business and entrepreneurial community.
"They are my eyes and ears, and they bring me in contact with the real world," he says. "I want it to grow. It's all about trying to do something for the state."
Morgan also says the group will help other Republican candidates in next year's elections. "It's helping me change the outlook of our party, to make it more progressive and to offer solutions to the state's problems," he says.
Bob Hall, director of Carrboro-based Democracy South, a group that tracks money in politics, says the group will benefit what he calls the "donor class."
"Sounds like buying access to me," he says. "This is one of those things that benefits the elite, the people who can fork over that kind of money. To say that it won't benefit my company but only tax policy that helps my company is a very fine line to draw."
Morgan began sending out letters to members of the business community in June announcing the council's formation. So far, 20 to 25 have signed on, says state Rep. David Miner, a Cary Republican who recruits members to the group.
"These are business people who agree with (Morgan's) views, and they want to support him. It takes money to run a campaign," Miner says. "They tend to be conservative. They tend to be Republican, and they see that there is a fresh new attitude in the General Assembly."
Rep. Harold Brubaker, an Asheboro Republican, also is involved in getting the group off the ground.
Morgan, an insurance broker and cattle farmer from Pinehurst, faces Republican opposition in his home district in next May's primary. As of July, according to campaign expense reports, his re-election committee had $313,184 on hand.
Morgan's Democratic counterpart, Co-speaker Jim Black, has expressed interest in forming his own round table of business leaders/contributors. Black was out of town and couldn't be reached for comment.