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Morning Memo: Tillis headed to D.C. fundraisers

With the legislative session ended, House Speaker Thom Tillis can focus on raising money for his U.S. Senate campaign. And today he does just that with back-to-back fundraisers at the homes of some well-connected D.C. lobbyists. Meanwhile Reid Wilson, editor of the National Journal Hotline, a campaign tipsheet, writes about "The Trouble with Tillis" and points out that he may not be the candidate the Republicans need to beat Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. Tillis' trouble? The super PAC funded by donors he nominated — and persuaded House members — to elect to the UNC board. Wilson also says the abortion and voting bills lawmakers passed this year will give Hagan valuable opportunities. Good Tuesday morning and welcome to Dome's Morning Memo.

Morning Memo: McCrory's taxing pledge; Tillis super PAC money questioned

TAX BILL NOW PUTS FOCUS ON McCRORY: Gov. Pat McCrory pledge in his campaign to make any tax overhaul revenue neutral. It was the only specific detail he offered and came under pressure from Democratic candidate Walter Dalton who warned such a tax bill, if not revenue neutral, could lead to huge cuts in government spending on popular services.

With legislative approval Wednesday, the two-billion tax bill goes to the governor. Will he meet his pledge, one he repeated just months ago in his State of the State address? It depends. The governor's office called the bill fiscally responsible and essentially revenue-neutral in the first year at about $35 million in less revenue. From there, the bill is nowhere close to bringing in as much state revenue as projected. And McCrory is moving the goalposts and redefining what he meant. (Read below to see how the governor's office is positioning itself.)

TILLIS SUPER PAC GETS BIG CHECKS FROM 3 HE HELPED PUT ON UNC BOARD: A super PAC for House Speaker Thom Tillis recently raised $105,000 from five donors for his U.S. Senate race, including $70,000 from three men the House appointed to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

The contributions raise more questions about whether donations to the Republican candidate’s bid are connected to legislation in the chamber he controls. They also highlight Tillis’ ability to raise money when other lawmakers are limited in soliciting campaign contributions. W.G. Champion Mitchell said his $25,000 contribution had nothing to do with his recent appointment to the university’s governing board. “I want to see him be our next senator,” Mitchell said. “That is the answer.” Read more here.

***Get a full roundup of North Carolina political news and analysis below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: With jobless benefits expiring, focus on Moral Monday protest

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: How big will Moral Monday get? That's the top question today at the statehouse. Now in the ninth week, the protests are expected to grow because long-term unemployment benefits end Monday for more than 70,000 workers thanks to a bill approved by the Republican legislature and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory. A rainy weather forecast may dampen the demonstration.

With the House not holding full sessions this week, the Senate is moving forward. At 2 p.m., the Senate Finance Committee will meet to look at the chamber's tax plan again. It is expected to send it back to the floor, where it will get a final vote this week and start the conference process on an issue that has stymied Republicans. The full Senate starts at 7 p.m.

UPDATED: McCrory released a public schedule later in the morning saying he would attend the swearing in ceremony for utilities board members.

CHRISTENSEN: Tax debate cherry picks statistics. In his Sunday column, Rob Christensen looks at the motivation for tax reform, picking apart the numbers to conclude: "There may be a legitimate argument for tinkering with the tax code – making sure corporate taxes are not out of line with neighboring states. But the link between lowering taxes and a booming state economy is weak. ...

So what is the value to having one of the lowest business tax rates, if you jeopardize the state’s quality of life? Those business executives don’t just want to move businesses here, but they want to live here as well." Full story.

***Find many more political headlines below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

21-year old millionaire with super PAC to come to Jones' aid

It looks as though Rep. Walter Jones will be getting some financial help if he faces a serious GOP primary challenge.

John Ramsey, a 21-year old millionaire with libertarian leanings and his own super PAC has pledged help Jones win re-election. And he has signed up Raleigh businessman and conservative fund raiser Bob Luddy to help him.

Ramsey announced Thursday that his Super PAC, Liberty For All Action Fund would back Jones, the Farmville Republican, who has sometimes angered party regulars with his anti-war stance and other maverick positions.

“Congressman Jones is one of the few members of congress with a moral compass, and we'll do whatever's necessary to defend him,” said John Ramsey in a statement. He also announced that Luddy was joining the fund as a member of the national finance committee.

Tillis backers form Super PAC for Senate bid

Supporters of House Speaker Thoms Tillis have filed paperwork to create a federal “SuperPAC'' to raise money for a possible U.S. Senate bid next year.

The SuperPAC, named Grow NC Strong, will enable backers of Tillis to collect and spend unlimited funds on behalf of his candidacy – so long as it is not directly tied to his campaign.

“Our state's failing economy is turning around under the leadership of Thom Tillis, and there's a reason for that: Thom understands North Carolina businesses,” said Champ Mitchell, the SuperPAC chairman. Mitchell is a retired lawyer and is the brother of former Chief Justice Burley Mitchell.

Others involved in the SuperPAC are Cindy Marelli-Watko, who was a senior executive with IBM and Accenture and Doyle Parrish, who is CEO of Summit Hospitality Group.

While Tillis has not formally announced that he will challenge Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan next year, he is widely expected to do so. But he will likely face Republican primary opposition.

Morning Roundup: McCrory cruising on campaign trail, Dalton cash-strapped

North Carolina’s two candidates for governor began the final week of the campaign a study in contrasts.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, the state’s lieutenant governor, was on the attack and raising money, hoping a final surge would allow him to close what the polls suggest is a wide gap with his GOP opponent. Meanwhile, a buoyant Republican Pat McCrory, the former Charlotte mayor, hit a diner and a local GOP headquarters and warned his supporters against overconfidence. Full story here.

More political headlines:

--Gov. Bev Perdue is sitting on $1.2 million as Democrat Walter Dalton faces a 6-to-1 cash deficit to Republican Pat McCrory

Super PAC forms to boost Republican Dan Forest in lieutenant governor's race

In the lieutenant governor’s race, a super PAC funded by a supporter of U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick is sponsoring TV ads on behalf of her son, Republican Dan Forest.

Citizens for Accountability started just this month with $75,000 from Charlotte businessman David Longo. This week the PAC spent $61,800 on cable TV ads for Forest, who faces Democrat Linda Coleman.

Morning Roundup: McCrory goes moderate, a new Goldman police report

Republican Pat McCrory continued his moderate transformation during Wednesday's debate, shedding his tea party and conservative cape as he said legislation restricting abortions and cracking down on illegal immigration won't appear on his agenda if elected. At the same time, Democrat Walter Dalton made a bold pledge to lower the employment rate as much as 3 percent in his first year. Pundits say the debate isn't the game changer Dalton needed. Read more here and see four fact checks from the debate.

More political headlines:

--In a new development that raises questions about Debra Goldman's judgment, another police report surfaced showing that the GOP state auditor candidate called 911 after a fellow board member yelled at her during a heated Wake school board meeting.

Morning Roundup: State Supreme Court battle one of top races on ballot

The Republican and Democratic parties are paying particular attention this year to one down ballot race: N.C. Supreme Court. Although judicial elections are officially nonpartisan, there are strong partisan stakes in the outcome of this race. In the balance is the current 4-3 split on the state Supreme Court that currently tips conservative. Incumbent Paul Newby is a registered Republican and challenger Sam "Jimmy" Ervin IV, an appeals court judge, is a Democrat.

The importance of the race is why outside interests have started raising money for their candidate – in this case, Newby – to bolster the limited funds candidates can raise. Both candidates received $240,100 in public financing; Newby has raised about $94,000 from individuals and Ervin about $85,000, in the first half of this year. Read more about the race here.

More political headlines:

--After a week of moves to the middle on taxes, health care and abortion, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney returned to the South on Thursday to reassure conservatives and evangelical Christians that he’s a would-be president they can trust. Romney began his Tar Heel trip – his fifth visit to the state this year – by making a pilgrimage to Montreat to meet and pray with 93-year-old evangelist Billy Graham.

Attack ad hits David Rouzer for his ties to lobbyists, makes questionable claim

A Democratic super PAC hit David Rouzer with another attack advertisement Wednesday, highlighting his ties to lobbyists.

The House Majority PAC -- which is trying to return the U.S. House to Democratic control -- is airing a 30-second spot called "Stinks" aiming to weaken Rouzer and boost Democratic incumbent Mike McIntyre. It's part of a $2.2 million nationwide TV buy in six competitive districts; no information was provided about the local buy.

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