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Wake County school board hires Theresa Kostrzewa to be its lobbyist

The Wake County school system is paying longtime lobbyist Theresa Kostrzewa $35,000 to encourage the General Assembly not to pass legislation changing school ownership and school board elections.

School board chairman Keith Sutton said he picked Kostrzewa because she's effective, is willing to work for the school board and has no conflicts of interest. Kostrzewa was ranked the state's ninth-most influential lobbyist last year by the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.

"She's a top 10 lobbyist," Sutton said in an interview Wednesday.

Lobbyists form new firm

Three top lobbyists have formed a new lobbying and government relations firm. 

Jack Cozort, Theresa Kostrzewa and Gene Ainsworth have created North State Strategies. Cozort, Kostrzewa and Ainsworth's separate client roster in the last session included Dell, News Corp. (MySpace), Reynolds American, Smithfield Foods and Walmart.

Cozort is a former appeals court judge who has spent the past 12 years in government relations at the Womble Carlyle and Parker Poe law firms. Kostrzewa has run Capitol Advantage Associates, an independent government relations firm, for fifteen years.

Ainsworth spent 26 years as a government relations officer with RJ Reynolds before retiring in 2005 to form his own North Carolina government relations and consulting firm.

Lobbyist starts Facebook group for bill

Liquor does not have many advocates in North Carolina.

Lobbyist Theresa Kostrzewa represents the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., which is backing a bill that would allow state ABC stores to sell liquor on Sundays.

On issues affecting beer and wine sales, Kostrzewa says she could turn to distributors or retailers to drum up grassroots support. But liquor is sold in stores run by state workers who can't take sides.

So she turned to Facebook. In March, she had an employee, Zach Pritchett, create Support Sunday ABC Sales in NC! on the social networking site. 

He invited a few friends, as did Kostrzewa. With no other publicity, the group grew to 493 members, including state Rep. Nick Mackey, a Charlotte Democrat.

Kostrzewa, who joined Facebook last year to play Scrabble online, says she's impressed with the site's networking potential.

"It's a ready-made grassroots network that you didn't know you had," she said.

Roger Bone, top lobbyist, dies

Roger Bone, a former legislator and one of the state's top lobbyists, has died.

He passed away this morning, according to a fellow lobbyist. Further details are not yet available.

Bone was ranked the No. 1 lobbyist in North Carolina last year by the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research based on a survey of journalists, politicians and lobbyists. In seven previous surveys, he was either second or third.

In June, he received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest honor the governor can bestow on a North Carolina citizen.

His clients included Eli Lilly, Lorillard and the N.C. Association of Long Term Care Facilities.

Lobbyist: A session for streamlining

Theresa Kostrzewa says this will be a year for streamlining.

The Raleigh lobbyist said that in a tight budget year, legislators will be looking for ways to show their constituents they're working hard that don't involve spending a lot of money.

In particular, she thought that there may be less resistance to reorganizing state government programs to make them more efficient.

Kostrzewa, who represents the Distilled Spirits Council, said she thinks the legislature may be more likely to act on a recommendation from the Program Evaluation Division to modernize the state's Alcohol Beverage Control system.

"Down economic times can be an opportunity to make changes you wouldn't otherwise make," she said. "It would behoove everybody to be as efficient as possible, because if they don't cut it themselves, somebody's going to cut it for them."

Kostrzewa said she also expects legislation that doesn't directly cost government money— such as further restrictions on smoking in public places — will get much more consideration this year.

Kostrzewa: Nicknames should be 'on point'

Theresa Kostrzewa says nicknames have to be tied to the campaign.

The Raleigh lobbyist said that while "Fibber Kay" is a catchier nickname, "Status Quo Bev" is more closely tied to the campaign theme of Republican Pat McCrory.

"If it were 'Status Quo Joe' or something, that would sound way better," she said. "But when you look at overall message, it's in keeping with it. McCrory is saying we need a new kind of leadership, we need to change the status quo and change the culture of corruption. 'Status Quo Bev' is in keeping with that."

She pointed out that both "Fibber Kay" and "Negative Bev" are nicknames about campaign tactics, not about the central (alleged) characteristics of the candidates.

"I don't think nicknames work unless they're related to the overall theme of a campaign," she said. "I think it can be effective if it's on point."

Kostrzewa, who lobbies the state legislature, said that she also doesn't think of Hagan as being an untruthful person.

Boseman moves out

State Sen. Julia Boseman is no longer living at the home of lobbyist Theresa Kostrzewa.

Boseman, a Wilmington Democrat, moved out last week "out of respect for Mrs. Kostrzewa and her family," said Boseman's campaign manager, Tom Keating.

Kostrzewa and Boseman said that Boseman paid $50 a night to stay in a basement apartment in Kostrzewa's Raleigh home, Dan Kane reports. Boseman also paid Kostrzewa's teen-aged daughter to babysit Boseman's child.

Boseman had checked with Walker Reagan, a legislative staff attorney who helped write the lobbying and ethics laws. The new laws prevent lobbyists from offering things of value to lawmakers. Reagan told Boseman the arrangement would be legal so long as she paid a market rate.

A child custody battle has caused Boseman to disclose that she had smoked marijuana in the year before her election to the state legislature in 2004 and that she has defaulted on a $1.3 million loan on her former home. She is the Senate's first openly gay member.

Boseman is not the only lawmaker to pay for housing from a lobbyist. Rep. Debbie Clary, a Cleveland County Republican, is paying rent to live at the condo of lobbyist Connie Wilson.

Wilson, who left the legislature in 2004, said that Clary moved in the following year and is paying $450 a month, which amounts to half of the mortgage payment. Clary said she cleared the arrangement with the State Ethics Commission.

"We were very close friends in the legislature," Clary said of Wilson, who served six terms in the House. "She's never even lobbied me."

Clary is running for the state senate seat that Walter Dalton, a Rutherfordton Democrat, is leaving to run for lieutenant governor.

Boseman renting apartment from lobbyist

State Sen. Julia Boseman, a Wilmington Democrat in the midst of a child custody battle, is staying at the Raleigh home of a lobbyist during the legislative session.

Boseman said she is renting a basement apartment in the home of lobbyist Theresa Kostrzewa. Both said Boseman is paying $50 a night, Dan Kane and David Ingram report.

Recent changes to the state's lobbying laws prevent lawmakers from accepting free or reduced-rate housing from lobbyists. Walker Reagan, a legislative staff attorney who advises on ethics issues, said Boseman would not be in violation of the law so long as she is paying a market rate. He said that Boseman had asked his opinion.

Kostrzewa said she checked apartments in her neighborhood and found that apartments were renting for $800 a month. That comes out to $27 a night. She said she also checked with a nearby hotel and found the government rate at roughly $65 per night.

Boseman is the Senate's first openly gay member. She is in the midst of a custody battle with her former domestic partner, and it has led to disclosures that she had smoked marijuana in the year before her election to the state legislature in 2004 and that she has defaulted on a $1.3 million loan on her former home.

Boseman said she has her son every other week under the custody agreement and she brings him to Raleigh.

"My No. 1 priority was finding a safe place," Boseman said. "I didn't want to keep him in a hotel. I felt like I needed more of a stable environment."

She said she also pays $10 an hour to Kostrzewa's teen-aged daughter for babysitting.

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