Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Yes! Weekly: TREBIC Admits To Being A Lobbyist Group!

Yes! Weekly's Eric Ginsburg writes The Unofficial lobbyist: TREBIC & the building industry:

"The event wasn’t open to the public, but for those who weren’t sure who was who, there were nametags and colored ribbons to differentiate the guests."

Lest some drunken TREBIC member were to get confused and attempt to lobby another drunken TREBIC member?

"Guilford County commissioner Paul Gibson laughed with TREBIC members on one side of the room, and joked that he didn’t want to see a photo of them appear on YouTube."

I bet not. Maybe he wasn't joking after all.

"Candidates said the event was a great opportunity for them to connect with potential supporters, adding that they weren’t required to pay the $30 admittance price other guests were, and industry professionals appreciated the opportunity to rub elbows as well."

If that's not wining and dining then what is it?

"The organization represents a myriad of other dues-paying groups, including several member associations like the Greensboro and High Point realtors’ associations TREBIC doesn’t endorse political candidates, instead allowing its office to be used for interviews, sending out candidate questionnaires and distributing the information to its membership. The 501(c)6 trade organization doesn’t give money to candidates either — there are separate political action committees for that."

Just what is the monetary value of office space and does TREBIC or those other groups pay taxes on said office space? It is the law. And PACs? You mean like TREBIC board member, Roy Carroll's PAC?

"The distinction between exactly who is doing what may be confusing to outsiders, but the differences are important to keep groups like TREBIC on the right side of state law. While TREBIC has been called a lobbyist group —even by its president and members — the organization doesn’t technically have lobbyists."

There you have it folks, TREBIC admits to being a lobbyist group even though TREBIC employs zero registered lobbyists.

"State ethics commission Director Perry Newson said the state defines lobbyists as people who are paid and spend more than 5 percent of their time lobbying legislators and members of the executive branch on state level."

Still not sure?

"While the state legislature’s decision to postpone the implementation of the Jordan Lake Rules this summer was one of TREBIC’s major priorities, Sanford said she spent most of her time on the issue, researching and working with people locally. When it went before the General Assembly she was recovering from surgery, and said Cannon lobbied on their behalf in Raleigh."

Not only did Sanford spend most of her time but when she was unable to work the City of Greensboro funded Greensboro Partnership allowed their lobbyist, Jason Cannon, to lobby the state on behalf of TREBIC and the Jordan Lake Rules. Caught red handed!

But wait, it gets better. Or worse.

"Standing in the middle of the dining room floor at TREBIC’s annual event, commercial real estate broker Dwain Skeen of the Skeen Group described TREBIC’s work.

It’s a lobbyist organization,” Skeen said."

“If we don’t have an advocate, the powers that be… will pass laws that are not necessarily positive to our industry. TREBIC is a watchdog.”

Their members think TREBIC is a lobbyist group.

"As Skeen spoke, Tom Terrell Jr. of Smith, Moore, Leatherwood LLP took the stage to introduce Sanford, calling her “a great lobbyist” before handing over the mic. On the group’s website page for testimonials from members, Terrell said, “The building industry has no other voice in governmental decisions.”

That's right, Tom Terrell Jr, attorney at law said Marlene Sanford is a lobbyist in front of a room full of duly elected officials, no doubt.

"Absent from the praise — and the event altogether — was state Rep. Pricey Harrison."

Pay attention, you're about to get a reality check:

"Harrison and even industry professionals like Skeen and Terrell consider the unofficial lobbyists to be real ones, with Harrison suggesting the law should as well.

“The fact that they don’t have anybody registered as a lobbyist is strange to me,” said Harrison, who introduced legislation that was unsuccessful two years ago to extend state ethics laws on lobbying to the local bodies. “The same problems that we were having at a state level I think happen at a local level. It just seems to me that at a local level there seems to be way more influence of developers both in campaign contributions and lobbying local bodies.”

Strange? Representative Harrison phrases things so much nicer that I do... They're a bunch of fucking crooks, that's what they are!

"While Harrison said the folks at TREBIC were “good people,” she said residents were concerned about the role they played in the repeal of Greensboro’s RUCO legislation and the postponed implementation of the Jordan Lake Rules."

Good people? Pricey, I like you and all but damn, good people don't rip-off the working class. They're not going to give you any campaign support anyway so tell us what you really think.

"Harrison has previously said TREBIC would never be happy with any limitations on development, and argued in a letter co-signed by Rep. Alma Adams — who was at the event — that the delay hurt Greensboro residents.

“In seeking the delay, the city council effectively committed to tax city residents, exceptionally inefficiently, to subsidize developers,” the letter said. “The process by which the delay proposal moved — without meaningful notice or informed discussion at a city council meeting; without proper debate in a committee with subject-matter expertise in the state legislature — meant that there was no forum and little time for consideration of the concerns outlined above. This is how bad process results in poor public policy.”

See there, now that's more like it. Go girls! But the problem isn't just Guilford County:

"Jane Pinsky, who serves as the director of the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform, said a nationwide review of how states handled lobbyists gave North Carolina a grade of F at the time. The laws require lobbyists to register and file regular reports, creating transparency and leveling the playing field."

That's right, this TREBIC bunch can wreck havoc state wide.

"Coalition member Bill Cobey has worked at the local, state and federal levels of government, including as the state Republican Party chair from 1999 until 2003. Spending time as the town manager of Morrisville, he saw commissioners vote on issues that benefited them financially, adding that the conflicts are often more nuanced.

“At the local level, the biggest problem is perceived conflict of interest,” Cobey said. “There should be some limitations on how people can contribute or bundle money to candidates and then end up with contracts. There’s really no checks on it [locally] other than the media that I know of.”

And there you have it. With the local television stations and the News & Record being bought off we are left with only alternative weeklys and blogs as the only means to keep check and with readerships that are far smaller than those of the MSM groups like TREBIC and the crooked politricksters simply laugh at our efforts. It's going to take more than Facebook likes and tweets to reach the rest of Greensboro and the handful of us who are working at this night and day cannot do it alone. Get off your butts and tell people about what we're doing. Print these pages and pass them out. E-mail the URL to this post to everyone you know.

Or, just keep letting the bastards keep getting away with it after Eric, George, Jeff, Eric, myself and so many others have worked countless hours, mostly for free to keep you from getting ripped off. It's your call.

“People have a lot of suspicion about what goes on.” Harrison said about politicians and lobbyists in general, adding that there were things the city or county could do to counteract the prevalent concern. “They may need some nudging from the state, and they may need a citizen’s uprising.

I'm ready, are you?