Governor-elect’s former law firm lobbies for video sweepstakes

Governor-elect’s former law firm lobbies for video sweepstakes


by STUART WATSON / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @stuartwcnc

Posted on January 3, 2013 at 6:55 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 3 at 7:20 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The law firm that employed Governor-elect Pat McCrory throughout his campaign lobbies for a major player in the video sweepstakes industry.

International Internet Technologies (IIT, LLC) provides software for video sweepstakes games, outlawed by a decision of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

IIT has appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied a stay of the decision pending appeal. Three lobbyists from the law firm of Moore & Van Allen registered with the NC Secretary of State’s office to represent IIT in lobbying the North Carolina government, but McCrory himself never registered as a lobbyist.

Pat McCrory continued to collect a paycheck from Moore & Van Allen as Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives during the transition from candidate to Governor-elect and quit the firm only recently, although a spokesman for the transition team could not give a specific date for the severance.

McCrory joined the firm in 2010, but firmly denied allegations that he worked as a lobbyist.

“We have a lot of non-lawyers working for our law firm, and I provide economic development advice, policy advice, and also client development advice,” McCrory told reporters following a debate in Wilmington at the NC Bar Association in June.

As a candidate, McCrory left it up to the courts to decide whether the expansive video sweepstakes industry should be shut down.

“I’m still trying to figure out what they are,” McCrory told the gathering of lawyers in June, “I'll be frank with you. I can't tell the difference between these sweepstakes machines and video poker."

McCrory said he would consult with North Carolina’s sheriffs before taking any action on sweepstakes machines. The NC Sheriffs Association has been a vocal opponent of both video poker and video sweepstakes, lining the front two rows of the state Supreme Court during oral arguments.

Now that the state Supreme Court ruling is due to take effect on Thursday, McCrory responded to a reporter’s question about the future of video sweepstakes by saying, “I think they ought to enforce the law.”

But McCrory went on to express frustration at what he called “loopholes.” “The court has ruled and they need to enforce the law,” McCrory said, “But I also understand there are ways to have legal maneuvering to go around those laws which has been going on for a very, very long time.”

The Governor-elect did not mention that his former law firm was doing some of that “legal maneuvering.” 

Only last month, former top McCrory strategist Brian Nick went to work for Moore and Van Allen. Nick is engaged in “strategic communications” on video sweepstakes, but Nick says McCrory is still learning about video sweepstakes and never worked for video sweepstakes companies including IIC.

“Did he (McCrory) have a background working with this industry in any way, shape or form? No," Nick said.

Ricky Diaz, Deputy Communications Director for the McCrory transition team, said IIT will get no special treatment from a McCrory administration because it is a client of Moore & Van Allen. “He left the firm and he wasn’t a lobbyist for Moore & Van Allen,” Diaz said.

McCrory told reporters he would consult with legislative leaders about the video sweepstakes industry and law enforcement.

In a state strapped for cash, video sweepstakes are a tempting target to tax.

Outgoing Gov. Bev Perdue told reporters last summer that as long as the sweepstakes machines were operating, the state should “tax the heck” out of them.

The video sweepstakes industry has held out the prospect of taxes and jobs as reasons that state lawmakers should make them legal.