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Pat McCrory's closest transition advisors include big GOP donors, politicos

Pat McCrory's transition office released a list of top advisors consulting for the governor-elect as part of his working groups -- a list filled with prominent GOP donors and politicos.

Among the names: Bill Cobey, the former GOP chairman, is consulting on administrative matters; Fred Smith, a former state senator and developer, is consulting on environmental issues; and Les Merritt, a member of the state ethics board and former state auditor, is consulting on tax reform. (See full list below.)

The names are likely to reflect many that will work in McCrory's administration but don't represent all offering advice to the incoming Republican governor, the transition office acknowledged. Others are giving informal suggestions in conference calls and meetings but are not listed.

One glaring omission is the lack of leaders on two major topics McCrory promised to accomplish in the campaign: education and government transformation. A McCrory aide said the groups will commence after the Jobs and Economy team finishes their work, given their relation to each other.

Fred Smith decides against state Senate bid

UPDATED: Fred Smith won't seek a return to the state Senate afterall.

The former Republican candidate for governor sent a letter Monday to top Senate lawmakers saying he changed his mind after floating a trial balloon in October.

Smith served three terms in the Senate before seeking the 2008 GOP gubernatorial nomination, which he lost to Pat McCrory.

In the letter, Smith said he reconsidered a return bid after spending time with his family during the holidays. "I have taken much time to examine my station in life and what goals I want to accomplish moving forward," he wrote. "To that end, I have concluded that my time would be better spent in helping to ensure we elect a Republican Governor in 2012 than running for the North Carolina Senate."

As a Clayton businessman, Smith wrote that he works in a tough business environment "compounded each day  by out-of-touch elected officials" but suggested the battle for the governor's mansion is the real fight.

"We have a strong Republican team already serving in the North Carolina Senate, but their mission will not be accomplished by adding another conservative," he wrote. "Their mission can only be accomplished by electing Pat McCrory as our next governor."

Pat McCrory released a statement later Tuesday applauding his leadership and accomplishments. "I appreciate his friendship and support and look forward to working with him as we move forward," he said.

See the full text of the letter below.

Fred Smith set to run for state Senate

Word on the street is that former Republican gubernatorial candidate Fred Smith is planning to run for the state Senate next year.

Smith, a builder and a former state senator from Clayton, plans to announce in the next couple of weeks for Senate district seat 11, which is now held by Republican incumbent E.S. “Buck” Newton of Wilson. That would likely set up a GOP primary.

Smith served three terms in the state Senate before seeking the GOP nomination for governor in 2008, losing to Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory.

Smith, 69, is president of the Fred Smith Company.

Smith takes blame for missed golf bills

Fred Smith says it's not the fault of the N.C. Republican Party that expenses associated with a golf outing and reception do not appear in the party's campaign finance reports.

The N.C. Democratic Party filed a complaint today that accuses the party of not disclosing costs associated with the October fundraiser in Clayton.

Smith said the golf club intended to bill the party $2,718 for the golf fundraiser and went as far as recording the payment as income in its books and on its income taxes. He said his son, who runs the club, neglected to send the bill to the Republican Party.

"That was my son's mistake," Smith said. "The party will pay it."

Smith said it was his mistake that led to a $1,165 catering bill not being sent to the party for the reception at his home.

"It's my fault. It's not the party's fault," he said. "I guess I was frying bigger fish."

Smith said both bills were being sent to the party, which planned to pay them.

Party chairman Tom Fetzer agreed.

“We think, at this juncture, that we failed to pay certain invoices associated with the golf outing. We have asked the appropriate parties to send us the invoices and we will pay them upon receipt and amend our reports accordingly,” he said in a statement.

The complaint also suggests that the Republican Party's Senate campaign committee is operating as a PAC without being registered. Senate Repbulican leader Phil Berger said the party's Senate committee is properly registered.

UPDATE: N.C. Democratic Party Executive Director Andrew Whalen said the party's House and Senate caucuses are different than the committees operated by the Republican Party.

The Democratic Party, not its House and Senate caucuses, take responsibility for expenditures, Whalen said.


Democratic Party files complaint over Republican golf fundraiser

N.C. Democratic Party Executive Director Andrew Whalen has filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections that accuses Republicans of failing to properly document an October golf fundraiser.

The complaint comes after a string of complaints filed against Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue by N.C. Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer. Whalen's complaint states that in October, the party held a fundraiser at Riverwood Golf and Athletic Club in Clayton. The club is managed by former Republican gubernatorial candidate Fred Smith.

A round of golf, lunch and a reception cost $1,000 per golfer, according to the complaint. The reception was at Smith's home.

According to the complaint, no in-kind contributions from Smith appear in campaign finance reports. Furthermore, the complaint states that the "N.C. Republican Senate Committee," which solicited contributions for the event is not registered as a PAC. 

CORRECTION: Post now correctly states Whalen's title. Dome regrets the error.

golf complaint.pdf

College enrollment swells

CLASSES PACKED: The state's 58 community colleges have been slammed by students who enrolled because they need a job or a new career. One college president is teaching basic political science while another school has ramped up use of online classes to deal with the crush. (N&O)

FLIGHTS PAID: As the date for a hearing on the campaign finance activity of Gov. Mike Easley approached, his campaign quietly paid for five flights, acknowledging they could have been construed as campaign-related. (N&O)

DRIVE MY CAR: Former gubernatorial candidate Fred Smith owned a plane and the State Board of Elections told him that he could treat the plane as his car for the purposes of campaign finance reporting. That fact undercuts an argument by the N.C. Democratic Party that Republicans had unbilled flights just like Easley. (N&O)

P.I. says GOP took unbilled flights

A private investigator hired by the N.C. Democratic Party told the State Board of Elections that he believes three Republican candidates for governor took campaign flights that do not appear in their campaign finance reports.

Anthony Asbridge, a retired IRS investigator and a forensic accountant said he reviewed campaign finance reports and news accounts concerning Patrick Ballantine, Fred Smith and Bill Graham.

News reports mentioned flights related to their campaigns, but campaign finance reports for the candidates show no entries related to paying for them.

Board members had few questions for Asbridge who was apparently brought to testify that Republicans, like former Gov. Mike Easley, took unreported campaign flights. 

When you wish upon a star

MSNBC is raising the stakes:

GOP Sen. Richard Burr, who, if he wins re-election in 2010, could end up becoming a rising national star, is taking the lead for the Senate GOP on the issue of health care.

Washington types felt the same way about Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory. If he'd won the governor's mansion last year in spite of the Obama blue wave, he would be in the spotlight right now as the new face of the GOP.

On a somewhat related note, Reynolds High is inducting Burr into its sports hall of fame.

A standout high school football player who played in the 1973 Shrine Bowl, Burr went on to play defensive back at Wake Forest University.

Former GOP gubernatorial candidate Fred Smith also played in the Shrine Bowl and went on to Wake Forest.

Quick Hits

* Former state Sen. Fred Smith, who once pondered a run for the job himself, has endorsed Woody White for chair of the N.C. Republican Party.

* Republican National Committee member Ada Fisher of North Carolina calls for Michael Steele to step down, criticizes his language.

* Former Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Bill Harrison sworn in to new seat, elected chairman of the State Board of Education

* Greensboro News-Record columnist Doug Clark says Gov. Beverly Perdue has a "special obligation" to see that lottery money doesn't go into the general fund. 

Smith won't run for GOP head

Former State Sen. Fred Smith says he will not run for chairman of the state GOP.

Smith, a Clayton businessman, said with the downturn in the economy he needed to focus on his real estate development and paving business, Rob Christensen reports.

"My first duty is to my family and my business," Smith said. "I've got a duty to my employees who stuck with me during the time I was running for governor."

Smith unsucessfully sought the GOP nomination for governor last year.  Late last year, Smith began thinking about running for state chairman.

State Chair Linda Daves has said she will not seek another term at the state GOP Convention in June.

Marcus Kindley, a Guilford County stock broker is running. Looking at running are former state Sen. Woody White and Lee County Commissioner Chad Adams.

Previously: Former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes to run?

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