Under the Dome

Morning Memo: State to probe gambling money; contentious day in N.C. House

STATE ELECTION OFFICIALS TO INVESTIGATE GAMBLING DONATIONS: State elections officials are calling for an investigation of $235,000 in political donations to dozens of North Carolina candidates from an Oklahoma sweepstakes operator, contributions that they say may have violated state campaign finance laws, AP reported. Gov. Pat McCrory, state House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger are among those who received the checks, many of them mailed from a Charlotte lobbying firm where McCrory worked until just before he took office.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House will consider three highly contentious measures Tuesday: first, a sweeping immigration bill at 10 a.m. in House Judiciary Subcommittee B and a gun bill at the same time in House Judiciary Subcommittee A, and then, at 2 p.m., the full House convenes to hear a voter ID measure. Immigration advocates are expected to appear in full force at the legislative building today to lobby. Also today: a House panel will also consider a bill to adopt a state marsupial, among other state symbols, and a Senate committee will hear a bill to make hospitals more transparent in their billing.

Gov. Pat McCrory -- and legislative leaders -- will attend the NFIB meeting in Raleigh at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. Later in the day, the governor will sign Kilah's Law (HB75) at a 4:30 p.m. ceremony at the Capitol.

Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- our thoughts are with Jamie and Nation Hahn's family and friends today. More North Carolina political news and analysis below.

POLITICAL FUNDRAISER JAMIE HAHN DIES: Jamie and Nation Hahn often opened their North Raleigh home to Jonathan Broyhill, who was the best man at their 2009 wedding. On Monday nights, the three routinely gathered at the Hahn home for supper, friends said. But such a gathering took a dark and horrid turn Monday, leaving Jamie Hahn, 29, fighting for her life from stab wounds. Raleigh police say Broyhill, 31, inflicted those wounds. The Hahn family issued a statement about 3 a.m. Tuesday morning saying Jamie Hahn died from her wounds. "Jamie lost her struggle to live this morning. We lost a beautiful and loving wife, daughter and friend," it read. "We all lost a pure and brave spirit." More here.

REACTION: “Jamie is a ray of sunshine,” said state Sen. Josh Stein, a Democrat from Wake County who knew all three from political events. “She’s always smiling. She absolutely brings cheer wherever she goes, and that this has happened is tragic.”

From the Wake County GOP: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Jamie and Nation Hahn. Both are highly respected democratic party leaders and strategists active in Wake County and State politics. Regardless of our differing political views, it is our civic involvement and love of our community that binds us together. Please keep the Hahn’s in your thoughts in the wake of this senseless tragedy.”

MORE ON GAMBLING MONEY INVESTIGATION: Court records from Florida examined by The Associated Press show that the checks were drawn from an account that received funds directly from International Internet Technologies, a company that earned millions of dollars in profits from what prosecutors allege was a criminal gambling enterprise.

The company's owners, Chase and Kristin Burns of Anadarko, Okla., were among 57 people arrested by Florida authorities last month on felony charges related to a charity that purported to help homeless veterans but that prosecutors say was a front for collecting nearly $300 million in untaxed profits from sweepstakes cafes. Bank records subpoenaed as part of the Florida investigation show that the Burns' company also received more than $98 million in about four years from North Carolina sweepstakes cafes using the company's software. The records show large cash transfers then were made from the company's account to a checking account labeled Chase Burns Trust, the source of the North Carolina political donations.State law prohibits corporate money from being used to "directly or indirectly" fund political campaigns.

Briefed on the AP's findings, the elections board's Democratic chairman, Larry Leake, and ranking Republican member, Chuck Winfree, said the state agency should investigate the donations from Burns. The five-member elections board, which has the authority to issue subpoenas and call witnesses to testify, typically follows the lead of Leake and Winfree in light of their seniority. Elections staff have already been conducting a preliminary review of the donations, records show. "If the money from the corporation made its way to the campaigns, then to me that would be illegal contributions," said Leake, an Asheville lawyer who has served on the board 20 years. Full story.

PERDUE DONORS TO APPEAR IN COURT: From AP -- A trio of former supporters of North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue are due in court on charges that they obstructed justice during an investigation of financial activities related to her campaign. Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby says due in court Wednesday are long-time Perdue family friend Trawick "Buzzy" Stubbs Jr. of New Bern, fast-food restaurant owner Charles Michael Fulenwider and Robert Caldwell, both of Morganton.

Caldwell and Stubbs are charged with felony obstruction of justice. Fulenwider faces a misdemeanor count. Stubbs and Caldwell are charged with hiding the source of money used to pay for private planes made available for Perdue during her successful 2008 campaign.

MANY LAWMAKERS LIKELY TO RECEIVE A PEE CUP: The Action NC fundraising drive to send lawmakers and other elected state officials pee cups for drug tests raised $800, organizer Kevin Rogers said.

AND NO ONE LAUGHED: Sen. Jim Davis, a Republican from Macon County, railed against newspaper errors Tuesday afternoon during the debate on newspapers publishing legal ads.  He used as an example an article that mistook him, Jim Davis, an older white guy, with Sen. Don Davis, a considerably younger African-American Democrat. "Even though we share the same last name, Senator Davis is always impeccably dressed, he has a better tan, and he's of another party," said the Macon County Davis. Dome hears tan lines are out, especially in comedy routines.

NIPPLE UPDATE: From of the Citizen-Times -- The nipple bill lives. “The nipple bill is not dead,” state Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, told the paper Monday. “Probably sometime between now and crossover, which I think is set for May 16, I will re-introduce it.”

PITY THE N.C. CAPITOL PRESS CORPS: Corey Hutchins writes for the Columbia Journalism Review's website: "For North Carolina reporters, (the legislative session) has been a daunting story to cover, one that involves trying to keep up with the rapid pace of proposed legislation while deciding which measures merit devoted coverage and which to dismiss as hackery. “I think the hard part about it is trying to balance,” says Laura Leslie, capitol bureau chief of WRAL in Raleigh, the state’s leading station for political coverage. “There are crazy bills that get filed in every session under every kind of leadership. How much attention do you devote to those versus the ones that are actually going to move in committee?”" Hutchins offers his critique of the coverage so far. Read it here.

PUT A FENCE AROUND RALEIGH (NOT CHAPEL HILL): In The Daily Tar Heel, columnist Stewart Boss writes in his final piece: "Republicans have a bone to pick with UNC. It’s a conservative vs. liberal dynamic that has defined the precarious relationship of the N.C. General Assembly with the state’s flagship public university for eons. But rarely has the hostility been this pronounced. Read the full column here.

THE 10 DUMBEST BILLS: Veteran legislative watcher and columnist Scott Mooneyham has seen his fair share of intriguing legislation. In this week's column, he lists the 10 dumbest bills.

PERSONNEL FILE: Todd Poole, the former chief of staff to Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, and Andy Yates, a veteran North Carolina political operative, announced Tuesday the formation of the Red Dome Group. The new firm will focus on public affairs, issue advocacy and political consulting in North Carolina and elsewhere in the South. “Our experience and fresh contacts in government along with our hands on approach set us apart from other competitors in the marketplace," Poole said in a statement.

Another recent hire of note: Robert Reid is U.S. Sen. Richard Burr's new press secretary. Reid most recently worked as the spokesman for Mitt Romney's successful campaign in North Carolina.

BELATED CONGRATS AND WELCOME BACK to Senate leader Phil Berger's chief of staff, Jim Blaine. His wife recently gave birth to the couple's third child -- and third girl. Blaine returned this week after a few days off. 

ELLMERS: 'SEQUESTER IS ACTUALLY WORKING': Congresswoman Renne Ellmers, a potential U.S. Senate candidate in 2014 spoke to the Western Wake County Republican Club on Monday. The club's Bruce Ackerman sent this report: "Regarding sequestration and out of control spending, Rep. Ellmers said the sequester “is actually working.” It is only a cut of 2 percent of the federal budget -- essentially, it merely slows the rate of growth in federal spending and is not a cut at all, the Congresswoman said. ...To a question about the repeal of Obamacare, Ellmers responded that the bill was being effectively dismantled piecemeal as provisions fail to receive funding from Congress.

"When challenged about her lower-than-average rating by conservative groups, Heritage Action and Club for Growth, the representative retorted that these organizations are not objective and “cherry pick” the legislation and votes they use to score representatives’ conservatism based on their own agendas. She said more objective organizations like the National Journal & American Conservative Union factor all legislation into their scores and they rate the Congresswoman much higher on the conservative scale —in the 90+ percent range."

HAGAN'S WAR CHEST HELPS: From Politico -- "In the 2014 election cycles, Democrats face a harder map and more challenges in maintaining their Senate majority than they did in the last go-around. But they see a distinct edge in their candidates’ large war chests, with Republicans still figuring out who will run in some of the most competitive states." Full story.

BILL TREATS ALL CANCER DRUGS THE SAME: A campaign to have insurance companies treat cancer drugs taken orally the same as they do intravenous cancer treatments has come to North Carolina.
A House committee approved a bill Tuesday that – if it becomes law – would lower the direct cost of medicine for patients who take pills or liquid medicines to treat their cancer. The bill pitted insurance companies, which say the bill is unnecessary, against health groups, doctors, drug companies and patients, who say the change will allow them to afford the expensive drugs that keep them alive. Full story.

GOING OUT OF BUSINESS: Front-page centerpiece from the Greenville Daily Reflector -- "State cuts are forcing the medical examiner’s office in Greenville to drastically reduce the number of autopsies it performs and send about 400 cases to Raleigh, a move local officials said will limit education opportunities and hamper investigations." Full story.

--Lynn Bonner and Mary Cornatzer contributed.

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