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Morning Memo: The private first lady, and inaugural party time begins

MUST READ: First Lady Ann McCrory shuns the public spotlight. From the story: Ann McCrory hasn’t fully embraced McCrory's political career. Nor has she opposed it. Now, after her husband’s three city council terms, seven terms as mayor and two tries at the governor’s office, she has moved into a late 19th century mansion at the center of government for a state of more than 9 million people. There, the demands on her time – and the questions about her own life and marriage – will immeasurably grow. However, those who know the new first lady say there are no guarantees that her public role will grow right along with them.

***Welcome to the Dome Morning Memo, a digest of the day's political news and other tidbits from the statehouse arena. Click below for more***

HOW ANN AND PAT MET:Ann Gordon was one of four daughters born to William and Cynthia Gordon. Ann is said to have been particularly close with her late father, a retired Air Force colonel who later taught economics at Limestone College in Gaffney. At Gaffney High, Ann was a member of the Spanish and Bible clubs, and the pep squad. ...A 1983 marriage ended in Columbia, S.C., after four years. According to the settlement, Ann took back her maiden name. She also got the china, the vacuum as well as joint custody of Brutus, the couple’s golden retriever. Pat McCrory was also a divorcee. He and Ann came from corporate human-resources backgrounds, she at Cigna, he at Duke Energy. Several acquaintances date their meeting to a HR convention in Atlanta.

PARTY TIME: The inaugural festivities are underway. Pat McCrory played drums Thursday night at the "Rock the Ball" event. Now he -- and the first lady -- will emerge at the Junior League's Ball on Friday night for mingling and dancing. It will be interesting to see if the first lady stays for much of the event. This year is different: no free tickets. An opinion by the state Ethics Commission in May reversed what had been standard practice and said the Junior League could no longer give free tickets to legislators, members of the Council of State – the 10 elected executive officers – or certain other public servants, Craig Jarvis reports. Much whining surely ensued.

McCRORY REMAINS ON A CORPORATE BOARD WHILE GOVERNOR: In a Morning Memo exclusive, SEC documents show that the new governor remains on the corporate board at Tree.com, an online mortgage lender, despite pledges to step down when he took office. According to the company's recent 8-K filing, McCrory gave notice Jan. 4 -- a day before his inauguration -- that he would resign, but it is not effective until Jan. 31.

THE MARK SANFORD CONNECTION: The former wayward governor of South Carolina is also a member of the Tree.com board. He joined when McCrory led the board's governance efforts. A Memo tipster even recalls spotting Sanford at McCrory's victory party in Charlotte on election night. Wonder what McCrory thinks of the AT-hiking, scorned and much-maligned governor's bid for Congress in South Carolina?

N.C. A TARGET FOR NEW LIBERAL SUPERGROUP: Mother Jones reported on a recent secretive meeting for liberal powerhouses designed to counter the rich conservative forces from 2012. It's dubbed the Democracy Initiative. From the story: "According to a schedule of the meeting, the attendees focused on opportunities for 2013. On money in politics, Nick Nyhart of Public Campaign, a pro-campaign-finance-reform advocacy group, singled out Kentucky, New York, and North Carolina as potential targets for campaign finance fights. ... And in North Carolina, the fight is more about countering the influence of a single powerful donor, the conservative millionaire Art Pope, whose largesse helped install a Republican governor and turn the state legislature entirely red."

HOW CONGRESS WORKS:In a recent Huffington Post article, retired Congressman Brad Miller said the intense fundraising schedule leaves congressional offices run by unelected staffer. From the story:"Any member who follows that schedule will be completely controlled by their staff, handed statements that their staff prepared, speaking from talking points they get emailed from leadership," said Miller. "They certainly are going to be asking questions to witnesses at hearings that their staff suggested. If they offer an amendment it will be something that leadership suggested they offer ... to try to give them a little boost back home."

HOW WILL THIS QUOTE PLAY: In giving his cabinet secretaries raises as large as $13,000 on $122,000 salaries, McCrory justified it this way: “I’m trying to make it at least where they can afford to live while running multibillion-dollar departments."

GOP HOUSE LOOKS TO TAKE ITS SUPPORTERS BEHIND A SECRET WALL: House Republicans, led by Speaker Thom Tillis, are establishing a secretive nonprofit to help push their goals, just as McCrory is doing. WRAL reported the development Thursday. The move allows them to raise money and do so secretly because such nonprofits don't require their donors to be public, as with campaign committee finance reports.

UNDER THE RADAR: After first indicating it would grant driver’s licenses to young illegal immigrants who have received two-year deferrals from deportation, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles now says it will not allow them to drive until the agency receives a legal opinion that requires it to do otherwise.

Members of the N.C. Dream Team are encouraging undocumented youth to try and get a driver’s license. They’re compiling a list of DMV branches that are granting licenses and others that are not, said Jose Rico, one of the N.C. Dream Team’s founding members. Marge Howell, a spokeswoman for the state DMV, said she couldn’t explain why some immigrants got their licenses, but she said immigrants who are part of the deferral program receive special employment authorization cards with coding that signifies the program.


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