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Who got the money: FreeEnterprise Foundation's PAC contribution analysis

The NC FreeEnterprise Foundation released a report on PAC contributions in state races that reinforced a basic political lesson that money flows to power.

According to the report, PACs registered in the state contributed $12.27 million to legislative and statewide candidates in 2011-12, with Republicans soaking up about $8.8 million, and Democrats landing about $3.4 million.

The report lists the top 200 PAC contributors. The top three were Advocates for Justice, $449,750; Nationwide Insurance, $335,500; and the NC Hospital Association, $327,750.

Morning Roundup: McCrory keeps ties to private firms amid transition

A month after his election, Gov.-elect Pat McCrory remains employed at a law firm that lobbies state government even as he establishes his administration and controls a $660,000 pot of taxpayer money.

His dual role creates a potential conflict that makes government watchdogs uncomfortable. Another ethical move McCrory should consider, they suggest, is putting his assets in a blind trust. Read full story here.

More political headlines:

--Legislators seeking to eliminate $2.4 billion the state of North Carolina owes the federal government to help pay jobless benefits are prepared to unveil a proposal they also say would put the state unemployment insurance program on firmer financial footing.

New PAC boosts Gurley, as candidate puts $350,000 into his race

A month before the July runoff election, a new political committee formed to boost Tony Gurley's Republican bid for lieutenant governor in the Republican primary.

Dubbed "A True Direction," the independent expenditure committee was formed June 28 by Dan Spuller, a Republican operative and former aide to Pat McCrory's campaign. Its initial reports list a $2,500 contribution from Gurley's Medical Supply LLC, a Durham business formed earlier this year by Gurley's brother Danny. 

Spuller said the group is soliciting money from Gurley friends and allies to tout the candidate with positive messaging and "setting the record straight" about his record as a business leader and Wake County commissioner.

Ellmers forms a leadership PAC

Congresswoman Renee Ellmers is just a freshman in Washington but she's looking to increase her clout with the formation of a new leadership political action committee.

Dubbed "Conservatives Restoring Excellence," the Raleigh-based PAC filed papers with the Federal Election Commission on Sept. 15. The treasurer is listed as Collin McMichael, who runs his own political shop at CM&Co. The new committee will allow her to raise $5,000 contributions and donate money to like-minded causes and candidates, who are likely to return the favor.

A leadership PAC is not typical for a Capitol Hill newbie. But it's part of the Dunn Republican's effort to distinguish herself as a leading voice. (Call it The New York Times effect: a profile -- even if it appeared on A14 -- gave her a national platform). 

A University of Minnesota study released Monday found that Ellmers was the 13th most quoted first-term lawmaker -- and the third highest-ranking woman -- out of 94 freshmen in Congress.

Mystery PACs

U.S. Rep. Walter Jones wants to know who's behind so-called leadership PACs.

The political action committees are often affiliated with a federal lawmaker, but they're not required to reveal the connection to the Federal Election Commission.

The Farmville Republican has proposed a bill to require them to disclose their connections, but similar efforts have failed in the past.

So the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group in Washington, D.C., dedicated to campaign finance research, has resolved to figure out who's behind them anyway.

It is asking members of the public to track down references to each of the 32 "Mystery PACs" and call the politician they think is behind it for confirmation.

Hat Tip: Sue Sturgis

A PAC of cigarettes?

Political action committees associated with four major tobacco companies gave about $28,000 since 2000 to 11 of the 17 Democrats who voted against the smoking ban.

As Dome noted earlier, they were the crossovers who went against party line, helping defeat the bill.

Lorillard, R.J. Reynolds, Standard Commercial Tobacco, Philip Morris and its parent company Altria gave mostly small donations of $250, $500 or $1,000 through their PACs, typical of their contributions to other legislators.

The biggest recipient was Rep. Nelson Cole of Reidsville, who got $8,750 between 2000 and 2006. Rep. James Crawford of Oxford received $5,500 during that same time period.

Both represent tobacco-growing areas in North Carolina.

Reps. R. Van Braxton, Walter Church, Mary McAllister, Timothy Spear and Edith Warren were not listed on campaign finance reports filed by the tobacco companies' PACs.

Among the Republicans who voted for the bill, Rep. Julia Howard received $4,200 and Rep. Jeff Barnhart received $2,250.

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