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How Much Will Pat McCrory’s Indefensible HB2 Lawsuit Cost Taxpayers?

by Brandon Lorenz May 10, 2016

Buried in Pat McCrory’s lawsuit fighting federal civil rights laws were a few other details of interest -- the names of the private attorneys he has hired to defend HB2.

WRAL reported in January that McCrory and his fellow Republicans in the General Assembly have spent lavishly on private attorneys in recent years. “Since Republicans took the helm of the North Carolina legislature in 2011, financial data show state lawmakers have racked up almost $7 million in legal bills through October 2015. Gov. Pat McCrory shelled out another $1.3 million for private lawyers in the years since he was elected in 2013, half of which was tied up in a dispute with fellow Republicans.” And that was before he sued the federal government.

Among the attorneys McCrory hired to handle his lawsuit is an old friend -- Karl “Butch” Bowers. Bowers has already been retained by McCrory in the state’s damaging voter ID case, where at last report, he has racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees. WRAL reported in January 2016 that Bowers had billed some $678,000 for work done through October on the case. The Associated Press reported in September 2014 that Bowers was billing the state $360 an hour for the case. And other news accounts reported that McCrory’s office “would not say whether there is a cap on Bowers' pay, citing that as ‘privileged information.’"

Bowers has a history of defending ethically troubled politicians -- most notably, Bowers defended disgraced former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s use of taxpayer funds for personal travel as “minor, technical matters.” Sanford later said he “made a mistake,” reimbursed taxpayers and was censured.

Also on the lawsuit is Robert “Bob” Stephens, General Counsel for Gov. McCrory, who has a history of ethical miscues:

  • In July 2015, media reports surfaced that Stephens failed to inform the governor that the law firm of Board of Elections member Paul Foley had received $1.3 million in payments from the targets in an investigation into questionable political donations. Foley eventually resigned.

  • In December 2013, Stephens said he “misread” an ethics form to explain why he filed a false report that the governor did not own stock in Duke Energy when that was not the case.

  • A similar issue occurred last year when Gov. McCrory failed to report more than $13,000 in travel costs because Stephen claimed he once again misunderstood the ethics form. Progress North Carolina Action filed an ethics complaint against the governor's office.

From the start of the $42,000 special session, HB2 has been expensive. Since then, the state of North Carolina has lost some 1750 jobs and become a national pariah. How much more will Gov. McCrory and his cronies -- the General Assembly’s separate lawsuit will only add to the cost -- cost the taxpayers while trying to defend an indefensible attempt to violate federal civil rights law?

Brandon Lorenz
Brandon Lorenz


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