November 24, 1997
POLITICAL GIVING BY BOARD OF TRANSPORTATION TOPS $2 MILLION,
BENEFITS BOTH PARTIES & GOVERNOR
As patronage and ethics at the Board of Transportation come under increased scrutiny,
a new study shows that recent Board appointees, along with their families and
key business partners, poured more than $2 million into state and national politics
from 1990 through 1996.
That works out to about $60,000 for each of the 34 members appointed since 1993
by Gov. James Hunt, House Speaker Harold Brubaker, or Senate President Pro Tem
Gov. Hunt received the most support from BOT members -- $652,428 for his 1992
and 1996 campaigns. Democratic Party committees and leadership PACs took in $483,477
while Republican Party committees and related PACs got $85,243.
The report says that BOT donors sometimes gave together, pooling their money from
across the state to give as much as $65,000 to a single candidate on a single
day. Such activity would be illegal if it was coordinated by DOT officials.
Board members during this period included Sam Hunt of Burlington, who left his
post as Board chair and DOT secretary in 1995 to head Hunt's re-election fundraising
campaign, and Lyndo Tippett of Fayetteville who is treasurer of the state Democratic
Party. At least 15 other Hunt appointees have served as chairs or finance chairs
of his county campaign committees.
Despite this Democratic tilt, many BOT donors gave thousands of dollars to candidates
or committees of both parties, a funding strategy that critics say highlights
the bipartisan nature of the Board's patronage system and the deeper problem of
"quid-pro-quo campaign financing."
"It's less about Democrats and Republicans than about money and power,"
said Pete MacDowell of Democracy South, a Chapel Hill watchdog group that released
the study. "A seat on the Board means you control billions of road dollars
and can determine the path of future development. Donors invest heavily and broadly
to get that much power, and until our campaign finance system fundamentally changes,
they'll be rewarded handsomely at taxpayers' expense."
Democracy South cited several interesting examples of bipartisan giving:
** Thomas Darden II of Cherokee Sanford Brick Company, an appointee of Republican
Harold Brubaker, and his wife gave $3,500 to Gov. Hunt's 1996 re-election campaign.
** Carolyn W. Grant, a former president of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce
and a Hunt appointee to the BOT, donated $5,075 to various Republican candidates
and committees compared to $5,175 for Democrats, plus $5,000 to Hunt.
** Charles M. "Chip" Shelton Jr., another Brubaker appointee, gave $9,000
to Hunt. His father, Charles Sr. (a former BOT member), and Uncle Ed head a construction
and real-estate development company, where Chip works. They also head the largest
donor family to North Carolina politics - not counting those with a candidate
in the family, such as the Hayes-Cannon clan. Charles Sr. gave the Randolph County
Republican Party, which Brubaker controls, $25,000 in April 1996, and he now chairs
another Brubaker fundraising arm, the House Republican Committee. But Charles
Sr., Ed and their families have also given $110,800 to Hunt since 1991.
** Douglas Galyon, a Hunt appointee, and his boss Charles A. Hayes of Guilford
Mills are strong Democratic supporters, but they've given $1,850 to state Rep.
Joanne Bowie, who co-chairs the Transportation Oversight Committee, and $6,275
to U.S. Rep. Howard Coble; Hayes even gave Newt Gingrich $2,000 in 1995.
According to Democracy South, the BOT is more dominated by big political donors
and political dealmaking than any other board in state government.
Reformers say the patronage system must be ended as part of the changes now being
discussed for the Department of Transportation. "Seats on the Board are basically
auctioned off to the biggest donors, who then get absolute power to push road
projects within their districts," said Joe McDonald, president of the N.C.
Alliance for Transportation Reform, a grassroots federation of local groups fighting
"The make-up and power of the Board must be totally changed to return power
to local communities and begin comprehensive transportation planning for the next
century," he said. "We also need effective campaign finance reforms
that can break the link between donor and politician and stop the special favors
that waste tax money."
Democracy South cited an estimate from former Highway Administrator Billy Rose
that about 10 percent of the DOT budget goes for road projects designed to satisfy
what he called "political favoritism or just plain old greed."
That amounts to about $200 million a year.
Other findings from the campaign finance data:
** Rep. David Price got the most money from North Carolina in his 1994 campaign
on May 5, 1994 - thanks to 23 BOT donations totaling $15,250. Most of the other
money recorded that day came from real-estate developers and 8 executives of S.T.
Wooten, a road-paving company and major DOT contractor. In 1994, Price was in
line to become chair of the House Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee.
** On December 22, 1994, the Hunt campaign logged in $68,800 from 28 BOT-related
donors, including 10 checks of $4,000 each. A year later, on Dec. 11, the campaign
got 15 BOT-donor checks for $25,350. Hunt typically holds a breakfast or luncheon
for the BOT in December.
** Other politicians involved in investigating or reforming DOT received big donations:
$68,350 to Atty. Gen. Mike Easley; $18,300 to Auditor Ralph Campbell; $43,700
** Not all BOT members have equal power. The 14 designated as district reps have
final say over projects, as well as their own discretionary money - and they are
the top BOT donors; the smallest donors are a public-transit expert and the N.C.
Railroad Council chair.
** Total fundraising tied to BOT members could be $4 million or more, said Bob
Hall of Democracy South. "We only included three non-family business partners
in our study - just the ones who supervise BOT members and often coordinate giving
with them. The best example is Charles Hayes, boss of BOT member Doug Galyon.
But we didn't include $126,700 given by other Guilford Mills executives."
Nor did the report include the more than $600,000 connected to the Fayetteville-based
Lithotripter network, with which BOT member Lyndo Tippett has close ties.
An earlier study coordinated by Hall found that the board members appointed by
Gov. Jim Martin gave or raised $3.5 million to GOP candidates and party committees
during his tenure.
A detailed chart of BOT Members and their political giving is available
Democracy South is a regional non-partisan research and education organization
that advocates comprehensive election law reforms, including a Clean Money option
for candidates who voluntarily accept spending limits and take no private money.
It is funded with grants from the Schumann, Carnegie, Z.Smith Reynolds, and other