UPDATED: As the N.C. House debated a sweeping tax bill and a contentious gun resolution Wednesday, Speaker Thom Tillis spent the day raising money in Washington for his U.S. Senate bid.
The Cornelius Republican attended at fundraiser at 11 a.m., the same time session started, hosted by two lobbyists at the offices of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, according to an invite. The meet-and-greet invite included information about donations up to the maximum limit of $2,600.
Jade West, the association’s top lobbyist and leader of the NAW political action committee, and Kirk Blalock, a lobbyist at Fierce, Isakowitz and Blalock, are the hosts.
Later in the day, Tillis is expected to attend another event hosted by the America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry lobbying group. The 2 p.m. meet-and-greet is at the Capital Hill Club. Kelly Vgoel, the group’s vice president for federal affairs, sent an email pitching the event. “Speaker Tillis has received national attention as the NRSC has identified North Carolina as key race in 2014,” she wrote. “He is considered to be a leader in the North Carolina primary and has strong support from North Carolina Republicans.”
A Tillis spokesman declined to comment on the speaker’s schedule and referred questions to the campaign. Tillis didn't preside over some of the session Tuesday and was absent Wednesday. The speaker is paid a $38,151 annual salary with an additional $17,000 expense allowance as a part-time lawmaker.
Paul Shumaker, a Tillis campaign consultant, said the speaker "made arrangements to keep the House calendar on track."
"As you know the House has been ready to move on tax reform and the budget with the Senate less wiling to do so," he continued. "The speaker was able to move the Senate forward on getting tax reform for the people of North Carolina without taxing Social Security benefits and is hopeful the Senate will now agree to move the budget process forward."
This isn't the first time questions were raised about Tillis skipping a House session to fundraise for his campaign. But Tillis is putting an emphasis on raising money to catch Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who is seeking re-election in 2014. He raised about $300,000 through June 30 after announcing his campaign at the end of May.
Hagan brought in more than $2 million for her campaign account has $4.2 million on hand, FEC reports show.
Democrats jumped on Tillis’ absence. “Once again, Speaker Thom Tillis is putting his political career ahead of working for North Carolina,” said Ben Ray, a N.C. Democratic Party spokesman. “North Carolinians want leaders focused on creating jobs and growing the economy, not skipping town and missing votes to hold campaign meetings in while their colleagues continue to work.”