Whether one calls it lobbying, public relations, business development, or crisis management, what you are really hiring when you employ somebody for any of the above functions is a "fixer". That's someone who gets things done that might not be do-able otherwise.
Lobbying is big business. There is lots of money involved. Lots of connections to work.
It is also one of the stops many people in politics take in between campaigns while working their way up the ladder in the political world.
Recently, a poster over at the Exit 28 Ridiculousness Facebook page posted something about Cintra having their own registered lobbyists in North Carolina, so that seemed like a good place to start looking into how that part of the proposed $650 million I77 HOT lanes project has panned out.
WARNING! The rest of this post is a bit stomach churning. Reading any further may require some Pepto Bismol. Get some now if necessary.
The interconnected names that come up when looking at the people and firms involved in the past and present lobbying efforts employed by Cintra and related firms will make your head spin. Official "lobbyists" are required to register as such with state and federal authorities. However, as mentioned above, influential people working in the firms involved in lobbying are not always officially lobbyists. They don't have to register as such.
In Cintra's case this story starts with someone who is a lobbyist. According to the NC Secretary of State website, Cintra employs three lobbyists in North Carolina from a law firm named Brooks Pierce. One of those lobbyists is a man named Chris McClure. McClure was hired by the firm in January of 2013.
Who is Chris McClure?
Well, one of his previous jobs was as the Executive Director of the North Carolina Republican Party. That is the top staff position within the state party. McClure held that position from 2007-2009. McClure has also done work for Texas Governor Rick Perry according to his bio. (That will be important later.)
During the 2008 campaign as head of the state party staff, McClure certainly would have crossed paths with the next person in this story, one Russell Peck.
During the 2008 election cycle, Russell Peck, was in charge of the North Carolina operation for the McCain-Palin campaign. That also was the cycle where McCrory was on the ticket in his first run for governor.
The connections between McMclure and Peck go further than this however. In 2009 Peck took over from McClure as the next Executive Director of the NCGOP. They also both serve on something called the NC Advisory Committee of the US Global Leadership Commission. (There are a number of interesting names on this list.)
During 2012 Russell Peck surfaces again as Pat McCrory's campaign manager during McCrory's second run at the governor's mansion.
After managing MCCrory's successful campaign, Russell Peck went to work for a firm named Mercury LLC. Mercury's LinkedIn profile describes its business with this.
Mercury is a high-stakes public strategy firm.
We use our expertise and reach to gain competitive advantage for clients. Our expertise comes from extensive must-win campaign experience and operating successfully at the highest rung of business, government, politics and media. Our reach is the ability to use strategic intelligence to mobilize the message and persuade the toughest audiences.
We have proven results for prominent figures, leading advocacy groups and the world’s most successful companies.
That's a long winded way of saying lobbyist.
Russell Peck is listed as the point of contact for Mercury in North Carolina on the firm's website. Peck is only registered to lobby for one firm in North Carolina. That firm has nothing to do with
with transportation, but it would seem to be a limited work load for someone in the lobbying biz who has worked so closely to the governor.
Interestingly, according to opensecrets.org, Mercury appears to have done work in the past for a company called Macquarie. Macquarie has been a business partner with Cintra on multiple toll projects in the US and Canada, including some work in Texas.
Then of course there is Moore & Van Allen.
Readers may remember when Mecklenburg County Commissioner Dumont Clarke recused himself during the vote on a resolution by the county asking the state to delay financial close. This was on May 19th. Clarke sited a potential conflict of interest with a client and the project.
Moore & Van Allen happens to also be the firm where Governor Pat McCrory himself passed the time as an employee between his gubernatorial runs. According to this article McCrory was hired because he could "add value to what lawyers could do."
The firm has also hired a close McCrory aid, Brian Nick, after McCrory became governor in 2012.
So to sum it all up, here you have two former heads of the NCGOP staff working as lobbyists. One works directly for Cintra the other for a firm that has done work for a close Cintra business partner in the past.
Both of these men worked closely with Governor McCrory.
Then you have the firm where McCrory himself worked as a non-lobbying lobbyist having an employee having to recuse from a County Commission vote because of a conflict of interest somehow related to the project.
Remember the comment earlier in this post about Cintra lobbyist Chris McClure working for Governor Rick Perry in Texas?
Well, this whole twisted tale sounds eerilly like this article outlining lobbying efforts with close ties to the governor, including Cintra's, in Texas.
This all took about two hours of googling to pull together. Someone with more time on their hands and resourses available should really look into this.
Who knows what you might find?