Raleigh – North Carolina Speaker Tim Moore carried legislation to help a friend and campaign donor with a controversial Durham development that was in danger of failing, only to years later get a kick-back with the same donor’s new startup, according to a bombshell exposé from the News & Observer.
Neal Hunter, the co-founder of the Triangle-based pharmaceutical start-up KNOW Bio, gave Speaker Moore a contract for reasons unknown to even the company’s leadership. Hunter and his wife are campaign donors to Moore, having given $33,300 to Moore’s campaign fund.
But Moore and Hunter’s relationship goes much deeper:
“…four years earlier, Moore as the powerful Rules Committee chairman had helped Hunter with a controversial development that was in danger of failing. Moore ran legislation that forced the city of Durham to provide water and sewer for the 751 South project, which will place 1,300 residences and 600,000 square feet of offices and shops on 166 acres near Jordan Lake.”
The legislation – and state lawmakers meddling in local land use – was “rare”:
“It was a rare example of state lawmakers stepping into local land-use matters. Gerry Cohen, an attorney who spent nearly all of his 37 years at the legislature as head of bill drafting before becoming a lobbyist in 2015, said he could only recall two other instances when lawmakers passed legislation affecting local land use.”
The legislation freed up a property plagued by local opposition and environmental concerns and allowed Moore’s campaign donor and friend to move forward with the Durham development.
Fast-forward a few years, and Moore got a contract with Hunter’s new start-up, presumably for federal lobbying – despite never registering as a federal lobbyist. The contract was so hush-hush that the management team, including the CEO and COO, didn’t know about it until they “discovered” it after reviewing the company’s legal services.
“We’re a small, early-stage company with limited cash flow. [The contract] didn’t seem necessary and I didn’t want to take it any further, given the cost, and we didn’t need it. And I didn’t understand why the speaker of the House would be our consultant.” – KNOW Bio CEO Anne Whitaker
Moore never disclosed his work for KNOW Bio. But his involvement raises several red flags, notably whether Moore lobbied the government without ever registering and whether the Speaker used his perch to benefit a campaign donor in return for a future kick-back.
As the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform said, “it’s not going to pass the smell test for North Carolinians.”
“Speaker Moore used his office to help a campaign donor clear the way for his multi-million dollar development, only to get a kick-back years later for no clear reason and under the nose of the company’s leadership,” NCDP Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds said. “This deal stinks to high heaven and reveals a deeply corrupt Speakership where those who can afford kick-backs get their legislation personally ushered through the legislature.”
News & Observer: NC House Speaker Tim Moore’s legal contract with start-up raises questions
By Dan Kane
September 24, 2018
A short time into Anne Whitaker’s tenure as chief executive officer of KNOW Bio, a Triangle-based pharmaceutical start-up, she learned of a legal services contract given to an attorney she had never heard of.
The company already had lawyers handling internal and external matters and she didn’t understand why KNOW Bio needed yet another lawyer — one whose services she felt were of questionable value for a company that in early 2017 was barely a year old.
The lawyer was Tim Moore, a Cleveland County Republican and speaker of the N.C. House — one of the state’s three most powerful officials. When she learned the details of his contract and his work, which struck her as federal lobbying, she said she terminated it with the support of company board members.
“He was working on really, something about how [limited liability corporations] were treated, the tax treatment of LLCs, as well as trying to drive awareness around antibiotic resistance with, I guess with, the politicians, and trying to get incentives for antibiotics to be developed,” Whitaker said. “At least that’s what I understand his purpose was, but we were a small company, and to me it wasn’t a priority.”