Thursday, April 17, 2014

Behind the Ad: Who's zoomin' who in the North Carolina GOP Senate race?

By Richard K. Barry

Tom Tillis
Who: Senate Majority PAC (Democratic super PAC)

Where: North Carolina

What's going on: Well, this one really climbs into the gutter. In this ad, the Democrats attack Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis by drawing attention to the fact that "two former staffers were engaged in inappropriate relationships with lobbyists," as The Washington Post reports. One of the staffers was Tillis' chief of staff, with whom Tillis shared on apartment.
Tillis has said he wasn't aware of his chief staff's affair, despite the two of them living together. The affairs were revealed in 2012, and Tillis was criticized for giving the staffers severance pay when they were forced to resign.

If you haven't been following the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina closely, it is shaping up to be a tough one for Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagen, at this point a likely toss-up. Tom Tillis is considered the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, which is also being contested by physician Greg Brannon, Mark Harris, a Baptist minister, and nurse Heather Grant. The Tea Party is split between Brannon and Harris.

As for the details of the dirty dancing, this was reported by local North Carolina media:
The incident referenced in the commercial came to light just before the May 2012 legislative short session. Charles Thomas, who was Tillis' chief of staff and roommate, resigned after admitting to a romantic relationship with a lobbyist for the Home Builders Association. The affair was problematic both because Thomas was married and because of the perception that Thomas could have used his role to do favors for the lobbyist.

Days later, Tillis' policy adviser, Amy Hobbs, resigned after volunteering to Tillis that she, too, had had a romantic relationship with a lobbyist. The story surfaced again two weeks later when it was reported Tillis paid roughly $19,000 in severance to the two staffers in question.

That Democrats are attacking Tillis in this way suggests they take him seriously. 

Grade: I know that progressives are supposed to be okay going after Republicans on questions of morality because conservatives are usually so damned sanctimonious. I'm still a little uncomfortable with it, though it is true that these were not simply extramarital affairs, but involved lobbyist, so that's not good. Does the work? Yeah, probably, maybe, I don't know. C

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