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GOP lawmaker defends his effort to repeal lobbyist gift ban

Lobbyists will once again be able to give freely to lawmakers and not disclose it under a bill filed this week by Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell.

The legislation, HB 640, relaxes many of the ethics requirements passed in the wake of the Jim Black scandal. Black, who was Speaker of the House from 1999 until 2006, served time in prison for accepting illegal campaign contributions.

Brawley, who is chairman of the House Finance Committee, said he didn't think a ban on gifts from lobbyists was needed.

"I see people with integrity and honesty around here," he said Wednesday. "Jim Black was convicted of laws that were already on the books.

"I have faith in the majority of people being honest. Yes, I recognize that there are rotten apples, but I don't pass laws to treat everybody like a rotten apple. And that's what I think those ethics rules do."

But Jane Pinsky, the director for the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform, said the current system is working well now. 

"People like the clear bright line that legislators can't receive gifts," she said.

To be clear, Brawley said he thinks it's unethical to exchange things for legislation, adding "I also think it's unethical to say 'You vote for my bill and I'll vote for yours.' "

When Dome suggested that might be a regular occurrence on Jones Street, he replied: "I don't know that it does but I'm not going to pass a law against it."

--Mary Cornatzer and John Frank


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