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Morning Memo: Another DHHS hire raises questions; FEC chides Tillis camp

ANOTHER HIRE RAISES QUESTIONS AT DHHS -- Unadvertised job goes to former tea party member: The state Department of Health and Human Services has filled a newly created $95,000 senior planner position with a Greenville woman who was a medical school lecturer for three years but who has been absent from the health care labor force since 2002.

Margaret "Mardy" Peal, 42, has been hired as part of the "Partnership for a Healthy North Carolina," Gov. Pat McCrory’s initiative to allow private insurance companies to run the government’s health care program for the poor in North Carolina.

Peal gave $1,250 to the McCrory campaign in 2012. She helped organize the Eastern North Carolina Tea Party in 2010. The job was not posted, which prevented others from applying. Department officials declined to provide a job description or list Peal’s duties. Read more here.

***More on Peal and news from the U.S. Senate race below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Senate GOP raised big cash during legislative session

Senate Republicans out-raised their Democratic counterparts by more than 12 to 1 during the first half of 2013, and GOP senators had four times more cash remaining in their campaign accounts than Democrats as of June 30, an analysis by the Insider's Patrick Gannon shows.

Senate Republicans on average raised nearly $38,000 during the first six months of 2013, a figure boosted by the $475,000 raised by their leader, Sen. Phil Berger of Rockingham County. Democrats raised $5,800 on average, with Sen. Martin Nesbitt of Buncombe County leading that caucus by collecting about $26,600 in donations.

In all, 32 Republicans (fundraising totals for Sen. Dan Soucek weren't available) raised more than $1.2 million. The 17 Senate Democrats brought in $99,000 from Jan. 1 through June 30, according to campaign finance data filed with the State Board of Elections.

The numbers show the sitting GOP lawmakers with a sizable cash advantage early in the election cycle, which isn't unusual as donors typically gravitate to the political party that controls legislation.

McCrory's cabinet doesn't meet his bipartisan claims

Naming his final picks for cabinet last week, Republican Gov.-elect Pat McCrory said he met his campaign pledge to assemble a bipartisan team.

“We have filled all eight of my cabinet secretary positions with a diverse bipartisan group representing all portions of North Carolina,” he said. “Half of which are Republican and half which are either Democrats or Independent.”

A spokesman for McCrory said the new governor was referring to their voter registration.

Here’s the partisan cabinet breakdown provided by McCrory’s team. Four Republicans: Aldona Wos, Kieran Shanahan, Bill Daughtridge and Lyons Gray. One Democrat: Susan Kluttz. And three independents: Tony Tata, Sharon Decker and John Skvarla.

But a review of campaign finance records and public statements suggests his cabinet is far from bipartisan.

Rep. Wainwright's campaign money will go to Democratic party, church

Rep. William Wainwright died earlier this month with big bucks left in his campaign account. The 11-term Democrat was one of the richest (campaign-wise) members of the House minority party with $143,874.65 in his coffer.

But not all of the donor money will get funneled to the House Democratic caucus after his death. House Democrats will get $47,479 -- or 33 percent. An equal portion will go to the A.M.E. Zion Church and another 33 percent his local Craven County Democratic Party.

The disbursement of funds are designated in a form Wainwright filed Feb. 15 with the N.C. State Board of Elections. State lawmakers file the document when reporting campaign funds. Wainwright's three-way disbursement mirrors a form filed in March 2010. He served as his committee's treasurer but appointed Sheila Godette as the designated agent for his campaign account upon his death.

Democrats push resolution opposing Citizens United decision

Saying "the justices were in error," Democratic state lawmakers will introduce House and Senate resolutions Thursday to express opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United.

The ruling established that corporations and unions could make unlimited independent campaign expenditures. Critics are seeking a federal constitutional amendment to  declare that such donations are not free speech, as the court found.

Rep. Verla Insko, a Chapel Hill Democrat and lead sponsor of HR 1201, said the ruling is a "true threat to democracy." With the resolution, North Carolina joins more than two dozen other states to consider legislation or resolutions opposing the Citizens United decision. 

State lawmaker's $500,000 loan to his campaign sparks renewed speculation

State Rep. Bill Faison loaned his campaign account $500,000 as he continues to dodge the question of whether he will challenge Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue in a primary battle or seek another higher office.

For months, Faison, an Orange County Democrat, has traveled the state meeting with Democrats and touting an economic plan that includes a sales tax hike -- spark speculation that he would seek higher office. Amid Perdue's campaign troubles, Faison also questioned whether she was best suited to represent the party.

. At an event Wednesday morning, he distributed a six-page memo that appeared much like a campaign platform.

Faison said the money would go to support Democrats, but he refused to provide specifics. "I think it's important to show a commitment to the process. And to win back the legislature and keep the governor's office blue," he later told Dome.

Asked at the press conference if he would end speculation about his political ambitions, Faison declined. But he did suggest it's not too late for a candidate to enter the governor's race. He said he expects lawsuits challenging the new political district boundaries to delay the May 8 primary.

State law allows the money Faison puts in his legislative campaign committee to transfer to a gubernatorial campaign, should he choose to run.

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