Pat McCrory turned down a bottled water today.
Speaking at a gubernatorial forum sponsored by the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform, the Republican gubernatorial candidate said that he could not accept a bottle of water from the group because it has a lobbyist.
Under General Statute 163-278.13C, lobbyists cannot make contributions to political candidates.
"The bad news is I'm not allowed to eat here, or even have a drink of water according to the current legislation, and the last place I want to break the rules is at a seminar on ethics," he said.
McCrory argued that the rule, which was passed as a package of ethics reforms after the Jim Black scandal, was unnecessarily strict and focused on the wrong part of the problem.
As it turned out, McCrory was mistaken. Since legislators had been invited and the meeting was open to the public, it fell under the exemption for educational meetings in G.S. 138a-32(e)(3).
Bob Phillips, head of the N.C. chapter of Common Cause, said that he had given McCrory bad information when he arrived, and the candidate ended up eating a sandwich and having a Coke after the meeting.
Still, coalition director Jane Pinsky said she would be open to amending the law to allow gifts of less than $10, as long as it was reported promptly.
"If I buy him a cup of coffee, there's no reason I couldn't go back to my office, get on the computer and report it," she said.
Correction: It was a bottle of water, not a can of Coke as reported earlier.