RALEIGH—Rick French, president & CEO of French/West/Vaughan—North Carolina’s largest public relation firm—has joined more than 40 state lawmakers, lobbyists and civic leaders calling for reform of the state’s lobbying laws and supporting a bill being reintroduced in the State Senate and designed to create transparency around what lobbyists spend to influence the state’s executive branch, legislative staff and the families of lawmakers.
“I support the important role lobbyists play as advocates for their respective constituency groups but I also believe the lobbying process should be transparent and that citizens of this State have a right to know whom is spending money to influence whom, regardless of whether specific legislation is being discussed at that particular time or not,” said French.
Under North Carolina’s ‘goodwill lobbying law’, lobbyists may spend unlimited amounts of money on lawmakers, their staff and their families so long as specific legislation isn’t being discussed at that particular time and none of the money or gifts needs to be reported. Current state law also allows lobbyists to have direct business relationships with lawmakers, executive branch officials or their household members. Lobbyists may even provide personal loans to lawmakers under terms that are more favorable than those available to the public at large.
The newly formed North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying Reform hopes to cap lobbying expenditures that benefit lawmakers, their families and other officials; create a waiting period before lawmakers and other high-ranking government officials may lobby upon leaving office and create transparency as it relates to all expenditures and gifts.
French was recently at the center of a controversy over the awarding of a major PR and advertising contract for the new Raleigh convention center. The contract went to local rival Capstrat, and French claimed that political connections were a factor and even threatened to move his 72-person firm out of Raleigh.