AP: Lender hosts Tillis event days after bill passes

Jun. 25, 2013 @ 05:31 PM

The man who helped direct a $1.8 million political and lobbying effort for consumer finance lenders is co-hosting a fundraiser for North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis' fledgling U.S. Senate campaign, less than a week after a bill hiking profits for the industry became state law.

Tillis was expected to be in Greenville Tuesday for luncheon co-hosted by Time Investment Corp. president Royce Everette, who owns 19 consumer finance offices across the state. Everette is also the chairman of legislative affairs for the Resident Lenders of North Carolina, an industry group that championed passage of a bill raising interest rates and fees on the consumer finance loans marketed to low-income borrowers.

Everette's wife, Bonnie, and his mother, Gail Blanton, are also listed as hosts for the event held at the home of Parker Overton, the founder of a chain of watersports stores. According to an invitation sent out by the Thom Tillis Committee, hosts for the event donated a minimum of $5,200 a couple. Guests paid at least $500.

The Associated Press reported earlier this month that consumer finance lenders spent at least $1.8 million since 2010 to hire 20 lobbyists and steer at least $300,000 campaign contributions to North Carolina lawmakers, with the bulk of the money going to influential Republicans. Tillis' state campaign got more than $30,000 of that money, records show.

With the speaker's support, the industry's bill sailed through the legislature. It was signed into law June 19 by Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican whose campaign also got money from the industry.

It is illegal for state lawmakers to receive campaign donations from lobbyists or, while the General Assembly is still in session, those employing lobbyists. Those reforms were introduced in 2006 after a scandal where big money donors were caught passing cash for political favors. It is legal, however, for Tillis to raise money for his federal campaign from sources that might otherwise trigger ethics complaints under the state rules.

A copy of the invitation for Tuesday's fundraiser obtained by AP includes boxes for donors to check whether they are paying personally or with a check from a political action committee. That would potentially allow groups and lobbyists seeking state legislation to give cash to Tillis' Senate campaign, even though it would be illegal for them to give to his state campaign.