The Foundation for North Carolina, a nonprofit formed to further Gov. Pat McCrory's agenda, held its own inaugural ball Saturday night in Raleigh. The exclusive event -- which sold out days ago and attracted more hype than the traditional Junior League ball the night before -- featured McCrory, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and many other Republican dignitaries.
VIP guests paid $1,000 to attend a special reception before the ball featuring the governor and an open bar but more than one attendee grumbled that they couldn't drink enough Troy Moonshine and Cheerwine cocktails to make it worthwhile. Earlier in the evening the Foundation hosted an invitation-only dinner at the Carolina Country Club that asked guests not to even tell others about it.
For the main event at the Raleigh Convention Center -- the same scene as the other ball Friday night -- the guests arrived in chauffeured sedans, limousines and cabs. McCrory's new Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan arrived in a stretch black limo with a deep entourage. He emerged as if at a tailgate party, holding what appeared to be a red solo cup and drank on the sidewalk as he talked to State Highway Patrolmen for a couple minutes outside the venue.
Across the street, about 30 protesters demonstrated, saying the event represented a trend where those who pay the most get the best access to the new governor. "Governor for sale. Step right up. Tonight Only. And probably tomorrow," said Dov Rosenberg, emulating his best carnival barker voice.
Rosenberg, a public school teacher, is concerned about what McCrory and the Republican legislature will do to education funding. The protest was organized by Progress North Carolina, a liberal nonprofit that like the Foundation hides behind tax law that doesn't require the disclosure of its donors. "Two, four, six, eight, pay-to-play corrupts our state," the crowd chanted as guests walked into the black-tie-optional event.
Guests paid $75 to hear two bands, including beach music specialists Chairman of the Board. Some of the guests went to both balls but many picked this one.
Inside the venue, it look much like it did a night earlier. Except this time Democrats were hard to find. Most guests were state lawmakers, congressmen, McCrory administration officials, campaign supporters, lobbyists, Supreme Court justices, GOP donors and other party faithful. One of the rare Democrats spotted: State Auditor Beth Wood.
McCrory took the stage without his wife to make brief remarks. He thanked the crowd for their support and rehashed a few talking points from his inaugural address and recent speeches. Before he left the stage, he sat behind the drums and played the beat to Queen's "We Will Rock You," as he did a couple nights before at another inaugural event. "I think this is the only part he knows," joked Henry Hinton, a McCrory supporter who served as emcee.