Rep. Tim Moffitt has started a new political media firm that’s gaining popularity among his GOP colleagues in the North Carolina General Assembly. However, critics question the ethics and legalities of the new venture. Here’s a few excerpts and links to media reports on the issue.
From the Raleigh News & Observer:
Rep. Tim Moffitt of Asheville recently started a new business, and Patrick Gannon of The Insider reports that his customers so far are fellow House Republicans spending campaign funds.
“InTouchNC LLC is offering polished websites, newsletters and Twitter and Facebook accounts to state lawmakers. The cost of the service ranges from $250 to $1,000 a month, based on the amount of personalized information requested by the legislator, Moffitt said in an interview with the Insider. And the service – a way for legislators to keep their constituents back home ‘in touch’ with their General Assembly work – apparently is selling like hotcakes. As of Monday, websites from InTouchNC were live online for 38 House Republicans – nearly half of party’s House members. ‘We’re excited about it,’ Moffitt said. ‘It’s a very professional way for members here to communicate with folks back home.’ No senators or Democrats had signed up as of this week. …
“Moffitt said the business concept was ‘thoroughly vetted’ with his lawyer, as well as Tillis’ legal counsel and the State Ethics Commission, to ensure that it was legally and ethically sound. ‘We’ve done all the homework there,’ Moffitt said. …
“Moffitt said he owns InTouchNC, which state records indicate is based at Moffitt’s house in Asheville. The company employs several people, paid from the monthly fees. Moffitt said his longtime friend Gene Johnson runs the company. Johnson is also Moffitt’s campaign treasurer. InTouchNC purchased domain names for all 120 House districts and 50 Senate districts, Moffitt said. …
“Moffitt said it’s difficult for conservatives to communicate effectively because the media often ‘focuses on what we do wrong rather than the totality of our work.’ So about a year ago, he said he reached out to a couple of friends in Buncombe County to put together a communications strategy. His website, www.nchouse116.com, is the end result. His constituents liked it, Moffitt said. Other House members began to ask how they could get one, and InTouchNC was formed in December.”
“Buncombe County’s own Rep. Tim Moffitt isn’t waiting to cash in in his position as a public servant. No need to leave the legislature for that lucrative lobbying gig just yet. …Moffitt has already found a way to monetize his position of public trust,” he writes.
In addition, Democratic political consultant Thomas Mills questions the legality of the new business in a post on his Politics North Carolina blog Here’s an excerpt:
Seems Rep. Moffitt is marketing his new firm by providing free services to the House leadership to showcase his web sites. … So, right now, we have a corporation providing free campaign services to the North Carolina Speaker of the House and possibly other members. Since all contributions must be reported and corporations are banned from giving to candidates, it seems somewhere in there is an illegal campaign contribution.