Former Rep. Hager’s hosting Forest’s fundraiser raises eyebrows

 — Former state Rep. Mike Hager and now lobbyist is “co-hosting” a fundraiser for Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. There’s only one problem. North Carolina law prohibits lobbyists from donating to political campaigns.

Of course Hager says he hasn’t broken the state law. However the flyer certainly gives the appearance of impropriety. The fundraiser invitation includes a list of donors – “sponsors” and “hosts” and “co-hosts” and “patrons,” depending on how much they’ve contributed. Hager is listed as a “co-host” of the event, which, according to the flier, requires a $1,000 contribution.

Lobbyist Mike Hager

Hager denied having made a contribution. Asked whether his listing as a co-host might give people the impression that he had contributed, Hager shrugged it off.

“I’ve never worried a whole lot about what people think,” he responded.

“Hosting” a fundraiser is allowed, according to the Board of Elections, as long as no contribution is made, nothing of cash value is provided and the event doesn’t take place at the lobbyist’s home or office.

From WRAL’s article North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform director Jane Pinsky says that needs to change.

“Although the law prohibits Hager from making any contribution, this invitation would make anyone think he had contributed $1,000 to the campaign,” Pinsky said. “We need a firewall between lobbyists and the people they lobby when it comes to campaign contributions. Our current law needs to be reinforced so that lobbyists may not serve as hosts for fundraisers or put their names on invitations, even if they are not contributing money.

“North Carolinians need to know that decisions legislators and other elected officials make are not influenced by money raised for them by lobbyists,” she added.

WRAL News asked the Forest campaign whether it had concerns it might be perceived as accepting an improper contribution. The campaign has not yet responded.