Home Builders among North Carolina's top political power brokers
The North Carolina Home Builders Association, a trade group of over 3,600 members that includes construction companies, developers, suppliers and sales and marketing professionals, has had a strong influence on state politics for decades.
However, the group was initially left out of the recent Facing South/Institute for Southern Studies' "Tar Heel Power Brokers" report due to a data-collection error. When the data were corrected, the NCHBA jumped into 21st place among the special interests who both spent politically and hired at least one of North Carolina's top 60 lobbyists in 2013, as ranked by the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research (NCCPR).
The NCHBA's $460,000 in donations to state candidates and party PACs from 2011-14 made it the state's 14th highest election spender among the top power brokers. Its two top-ranked lobbyists, Lisa Martin and Mike Carpenter, gave it a lobbying power ranking of 48th.
The Home Builders' large contributions in the past two election cycles continue a longstanding trend: From 2002 to 2006, the NCHBA donated $760,000 to state legislative candidates, according to Democracy North Carolina. Its political action committee, N.C. Build PAC, was North Carolina's second-highest donor to state candidates in 2002 (behind the N.C. Association of Realtors PAC) and fourth in 2006.
In 2007, the NCHBA lobbied against a bill allowing counties to increase real estate transfer taxes, which are imposed when a real estate title changes hands. The bill passed, but the NCHBA didn't give up: After four more years of pressure, the legislature repealed the law in 2011.
Martin, the NCHBA's chief lobbyist, called the 2011 legislative session the group's "most successful session on record." In the two years leading up to it, N.C. Build PAC made $277,000 in campaign contributions. Besides winning on transfer taxes, the group also successfully pushed for regulatory reform and changes to workers' compensation requirements that session.
More recently, the NCHBA lobbied for legislation introduced in the last session to limit local governments' power to regulate "building design elements" of one- to two-family residences. The bill, opposed by the League of Municipalities, passed the House but stalled in a Senate committee. This year, the law has been reintroduced in both the House and the Senate.
With the building design law back in play this session, the NCHBA lobbyists are back at work. Martin is joining Capitol Advantage Associates, the firm of Theresa Kostrzewa, ranked as the state's sixth most powerful lobbyist in 2013 by the NCCPPR. Martin, ranked 41st in the survey, will continue representing the NCHBA, which spent almost $400,000 on lobbying from 2011 to 2013.
NCHBA has had a consistent team of lobbyists since 2013, with Carpenter (No. 29 in the NCCPPR rankings), Stephen Webb and Robert Privott, in addition to Martin. But in 2012, NCHBA lobbyist Jessica Hayes Boyce was terminated after revelations she was having an affair with the chief of staff for Thom Tillis, the former state House speaker who now represents North Carolina in the U.S. Senate.
Alex is an investigative journalist based in Brooklyn, New York, and a reporter for the money-in-politics website Sludge. He was on staff at the Institute for Southern Studies from 2014 to 2016. Additional stories of Alex's have appeared in the International Business Times, The Nation and Vice.com.