Huffpost Politics

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Brian LaSorsa Headshot

Thom Tillis Is Wrong For The U.S. Senate

Posted: Updated:

Thom Tillis, the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, is a really fantastic candidate for the United States Se... HAHAHA OMG I CAN'T EVEN

Tillis is currently struggling in a tough primary race against Greg Brannon, a Tea Party Republican who has been endorsed by Senator Rand Paul, Congressman Thomas Massie, RedState editor Erick Erickson, FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe, and many other leaders in the conservative movement. Whoever wins the primary race will go head to head against liberal Senator Kay Hagan, so it's time to remind North Carolinians why we need to stick with people like Brannon in pursuit of our nation's brightest future.

To give a little background -- the Thom Tillis office reeks of lobbying money. In 2012, an investigation revealed that Tillis' chief of staff Charles Thomas was having an affair with a lobbyist from the North Carolina Home Builders Association. Tillis, who roomed with Thomas at the time, alleges to have been unaware of the relationship (in which both parties were married to other people). Maybe that's what the speaker means by "defending the institution of the traditional family." Thomas resigned upon being presented with photographs, videos, and eyewitness accounts confirming the affair.

So at least that was cleared up. Oh, wait!

Five days later another Tillis staffer admitted to engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a lobbyist who represented several clients in the state legislature. Amy Hobbs, a policy analyst (herself a former lobbyist), had been getting cozy with lobbyist boo Dean Plunkett, whose contracts quickly began drying up when Hobbs resigned. Luckily for the two ex-staffers, though, Tillis handed over more than $19,000 in severance pay because what's an extramarital affair if it's not funded by taxpayers?

This staff line-up was supposedly God's gift to the world one year earlier. Upon winning the speakership in 2011, Tillis gathered these individuals in his office and claimed that his staff budget would be 17 percent lower than that of the Democrat who preceded him. A praise-worthy campaign promise, yes, but by June of the same year Tillis gave Thomas a raise of $30K and Hobbs a raise of $12K, not to mention the 27 percent salary increase given to general counsel Jason Kay.

It's convenient, too, that after Tillis made it rain in the General Assembly he could suddenly afford to donate $250K to his own Senate campaign. (That's how they "raised $1M" so quickly.) One day the revolving door will pay for its own lubrication. Tillis is just doing the best he can to make sure that day is tomorrow. But it helps having friends.

That's why when Tillis can't be found in the state legislature, the assumed status of the Absentee Representative from Mecklenburg, he's probably fundraising with the political players in Washington, D.C. For instance, the speaker disappeared during a vital week of debate in 2013 as the GA issued a resolution supporting the constitutional right to bear arms, which an astounding 32 percent of present legislators voted to reject, and considered sweeping simplifications and reductions to the North Carolina tax code. He did the same thing a few weeks later. It turns out Tillis was sipping bubbly with K Street on Capitol Hill. At $1,000 per person and $2,500 per PAC, I sure hope they get their money's worth in connections -- because his constituents sure aren't.

At the end of the day he still hasn't found any worthwhile supporters, either. Endorsements from people like Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, and Mitch McConnell aren't much to brag about these days. Rove's Super PAC spent $103M with barely anything to show for it. McConnell fundraised for Senator Paul's primary challenger in 2010, too, and we see how that worked out.

Let's face it -- establishment Republicans' influence is waning.

The grassroots come out for individuals whose values they share. It's difficult to inspire confidence when your nominee continues to skip candidate forums across the entire state of North Carolina. Or, as The Hill pointed out so clearly while covering the southeastern primary race, "NC conservatives wonder: Where's Thom Tillis?" Admittedly the speaker and his colleagues travel with an obscene security team that rakes in about $15K per town hall tour. Maybe Tillis fails to show up because he's trying to save taxpayers money.

I can't be any franker about this: if Tillis wants to stop government waste, he should drop out of the race immediately. Otherwise the Republican Party will end up burning a hole in its pocket for a candidate who may very well be unelectable or who, in an even worse scenario, will win the election and make not a single change to the deficit-friendly legislative chamber we call the United States Senate.