Shining a spotlight on Dan Bishop’s ties to donors and special interests

Shining a spotlight on Dan Bishop’s ties to donors and special interests

FILE - Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Sept. 20, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Bishop is unopposed in the March 5 Republican primary for North Carolina attorney general. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, file)

By Dylan Rhoney

June 21, 2024

In some cases, Bishop cast votes either shortly before or after receiving donations from high-dollar supporters, including executives in the natural gas, real estate, and steel industries. Many of these executives were also affiliated with companies that lobbied Congress on some of the same issues Bishop voted on.

Dan Bishop is running to be North Carolina’s next Attorney General, the state’s so-called “top cop,” tasked with defending state laws, advising state agencies and officials, initiating legal action when necessary, and above all else, representing the public interest in court. 

But a close look at Bishop’s voting record while in Congress and contributions to his past campaigns, the Dan Bishop Victory Committee, and the Bishop-aligned Tar Heel Prosperity PAC (political action committee) shows that on several occasions, the Republican voted on legislation that stood to directly affect some of his top donors’ business interests.

In some cases, Bishop cast votes shortly before or after his campaign, committee, or aligned PAC received donations from high-dollar supporters, including executives in the natural gas, real estate, and steel industries. Many of these executives were also affiliated with companies that lobbied Congress on some of the same issues Bishop voted on.

Efforts to reach Bishop for comment prior to publication were unsuccessful, but the case of businessman Thomas Skains illustrates Bishop’s cozy ties with big business. 

Skains, who sits on the boards of Duke Energy, National Fuel and Gas Company, and Truist Bank, has donated $22,800 to Bishop’s campaigns and committee between 2019 and 2024. Skains’ wife, Sherry, has also donated $5,800 to Bishop’s campaigns over the years.  

Thomas Skains made several donations to Bishop near key votes, including a $2,800 donation on June 30, 2020 to his congressional campaign. On July 24, 2020, Bishop voted against a failed amendment to an appropriations bill  that sought to enforce stricter standards against soot, which  can lead to several illnesses, including heart disease, asthma, and cancer. 

That vote came in the same quarter in which Duke Energy spent $50,000 lobbying the House on “clean air regulations and legislation and climate change, natural gas, renewables, and other aspects of energy policy.”

All told, Duke Energy spent nearly $39 million lobbying Congress on environmental issues from 2019 to 2023. The company lobbied on issues relating to clean air, renewable energy, solar tax credits, climate change, and hydrogen.

Another one of Skains’ donations came on March 3, 2021, when he donated $2,900 to Bishop’s congressional campaign. His wife also donated $2,900 the same day. 

Just two weeks later, Bishop was one of 14 members of Congress—all Republicans—who voted against the COVID-19 Bankruptcy Relief Extension Act of 2021. The bill, which President Biden signed into law that same month, extended the expiration date of a pandemic-era rule preventing financial relief for Covid-19 from being counted against a person as income for one full year, until March 27, 2022. The bill also increased the threshold for businesses to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy.

A lobbying report from the time shows Truist spent $630,000 during the first quarter of 2021 lobbying Congress on a range of issues, including “coronavirus relief legislation.” In total, Truist spent $2.8 million from 2019 through 2023 lobbying Congress on bank regulation and oversight, and coronavirus relief.

There is no direct evidence that Bishop’s campaign contributions influenced his voting actions, and no way to prove Skains had any direct ties to Duke or Truist’s lobbying. In Bishop’s case, it is also likely that as a staunch economic conservative, he is ideologically aligned with many of his donors, who oppose increased regulation of their industries. 

But Bishop’s close ties to Skains are unassailable: he and his wife even co-hosted a fundraiser for Bishop in 2020. 

Large donations from the real estate industry 

Skains is far from the only high-level executive who’s directed tens of thousands of dollars to help elect and reelect Bishop. 

And while Bishop’s been cozy with various industries, few have been bigger supporters of his than the real estate industry, which makes up the second largest share of his contributions, behind retirees. Since 2019, Bishop’s campaign, his committee, and aligned PAC have received $456,252 in contributions from the real estate industry and those affiliated with it, according to Open Secrets

One contributor, Kenneth Beuley, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Keith Corporation, a commercial real estate group, has provided Bishop’s campaigns, the Dan Bishop Victory Committee, and the Tar Heel Prosperity PAC with over $80,000 in contributions since Bishop entered Congress, including a $6,400 donation to Bishop’s campaign for North Carolina attorney general (AG). Beuley’s wife, Elizabeth, has also contributed $6,400 to Bishop’s campaign for AG.

John Kane, the founder of Kane Realty, a Raleigh-based corporation, has donated $20,900 to Bishop’s campaigns and committee over the years. Kane owns several large properties in the Raleigh area, including North Hills, featuring multiple apartment complexes, hotels, and mixed-use development. Kane’s company also owns The Dillon, a mixed-use building with apartments, office space, retail, and restaurants in the downtown warehouse district, as well as the newly built Smoky Hollow development.

As money has poured in from individuals like Beuley and Kane with interests in real estate, Bishop’s votes have shown him to be a reliable ally of the industry.

On June 25, 2020, Thomas Henson, a real estate investor with an interest “in over 25 privately owned real estate, hospitality and leisure related businesses,” contributed $2,800 to Dan Bishop for Congress, $5,000 to the Dan Bishop Victory Committee, and $2,200 to the Tar Heel Prosperity PAC.

Four days later,  Bishop and every Republican in the House voted against the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020, which called for a one-year moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, as well as providing additional assistance to those at risk of losing their homes if they were low-income, homeless, elderly, disabled, or lived in a rural community.

This vote came at a time when the unemployment rate nationally stood at 11.2%, with over 17 million people out of work. A third of Americans missed their housing payments in June 2020, with research showing women and people of color were most at risk of eviction even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. The bill sought to extend the eviction moratorium put in place by the CARES Act, after that law’s eviction prevention measure was due to expire in July 2020.

While it did not become law, in September 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued its own eviction moratorium to be enforced nationally through December 31, 2020.

Bishop again voted against extending the eviction moratorium in December 2020, when he was one of only 53 members of Congress to oppose H.R.133, an appropriations bill that, in part, extended the eviction moratorium until the end of January 2021. Congress passed the bill on December 22, 2020, and then-President Trump signed the bill on December 27th, just four days before evictions were set to resume.

On June 23, 2023, Bishop, along with 215 Republicans and 14 Democrats, voted for a bill that sought to reverse new Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) changes to existing mortgage fees that sought to help close the gap between what high- and low-credit borrowers pay in order to make mortgages more affordable for those with lower credit scores. The bill would have only applied to government-backed mortgage loans from either Frannie Mae or Freddie Mac—which, notably, is the majority of mortgages in the US. The Congressional Research Service estimated that in some cases low-risk borrowers could also see an increase in added interest rates under the changes to mortgage rates.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) opposed the rate changes, arguing they would “raise costs unnecessarily for consumers.” The NAR has a history of spending to help elect Bishop, spending $23,000 in support of Bishop in the 2020 and 2022 cycles, according to OpenSecrets. 

David Stevens, a former CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association, also opposed the change and described it as “a blatant and significant cut of fees for their highest-risk borrowers,” he told the New York Post.

After passing the House, the bill was sent to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, where it stalled out.

Bishop’s donors in the real estate industry have also contributed to him since he announced his bid for North Carolina attorney general on August 3, 2023. The following day, John Kane and Thomas Henson donated $6,400 each to Dan Bishop for NC, while Kenneth Ray Robinette and Claudia Smith Robinette of the CF Smith Property Group each donated $6,400.

On August 9th, Beuley and his wife, Elizabeth, as well as Keith Charles Poettker of Poettker Construction Company, each donated $6,400 to Bishop’s campaign. On August 13, George A. Morgan III of Morgan Real Estate, Inc. also donated $6,400 to Bishop’s bid to be the state’s top law enforcement official.

Donations from steel CEO whose company opposed climate change legislation

Since 2019, Bishop’s campaigns and committee have also received over $34,000 in contributions from Daniel R. DiMicco, the Chairman Emeritus of the Nucor Steel Corporation, which is headquartered in Charlotte, as well as $26,800 from DiMicco’s wife, Marilyn

On March 15, 2023, Daniel and Marilyn DiMico each donated $3,300 to Bishop’s congressional campaign.

Two weeks later, Bishop, along with most Republicans and a handful of Democrats, voted in favor of the Lower Energy Costs Act on March 30, 2023. 

The bill, which passed the House but not the Senate, called for an increase in US energy exports and production and would have prevented the president from limiting the use of fracking, which is a method used to retrieve natural gas from the ground. There are numerous environmental and health concerns surrounding fracking, including the leaking of chemicals into drinking water near communities where fracking occurs.

The bill would also have repealed the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which funded $27 billion to help fight the climate crisis and lower energy costs, as well as a $4.5 billion program that provided rebates to homeowners whose homes are highly energy efficient. The bill also sought to simplify the process of environmental impact reviews and cut regulations for both fossil fuel and renewable energy projects, with Democrats criticizing the bill for trying to repeal parts of the Inflation Reduction Act that sought to combat climate change. 

During that same quarter, Nucor, which is the largest producer of steel in the United States and North America, spent $830,000 lobbying Congress to “encourage affordable and reliable energy supply through development of all resources including clean coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, solar, and other renewable.”

In all, Nucor has spent nearly $17 million lobbying Congress on various issues since 2019, and the company has a history of opposing policies aimed at combating the climate crisis. In 2014, they argued against new federal rules on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and argued the Environmental Protection Agency did not have the power to enforce emissions standards for individual states.

Lobby Map reports that while the company argues in favor of cleaner alternatives to coal and announced on its website that it is committed to reducing its emissions by 35% by 2030, it has opposed rules targeting coal.

The role donations play in Congressional decision making.

While Bishop has often voted in ways that benefit his donors, there is no direct proof that he voted how he did specifically because of those donations. However, there is evidence to suggest that lawmakers in general are, at minimum, more focused on issues that matter to high-dollar special interests.

A 2023 study from Lund University in Sweden concluded that the issues members of Congress are focused on is influenced more by PAC donations than party ID or which committee posts they hold. While the study was unable to conclude that any members take votes based on PAC contributions, or that PACs contribute to legislators based on floor votes, it did show a correlation between issue focus and PAC contributions, meaning that lawmakers spent more time on certain issues if they received greater funding from PACs focused on that topic.

For example, if Congressman A spends time discussing education-related issues on the House floor, it is likely that he is a recipient of education PAC contributions, and vice versa.

“What our study uniquely shows is that there is a clear positive relationship between who gives money to politicians and what those elected officials talk about,” the study reads.

Bishop’s Democratic opponent in the race for North Carolina Attorney General, Congressman Jeff Jackson, declined to comment on this article.

Editor’s note: We have updated this story to reflect that efforts to reach Dan Bishop’s campaign prior to publication were unsuccessful. Cardinal & Pine emailed multiple email addresses affiliated with Bishop’s campaign on Thursday seeking comment, but didn’t receive bounce back emails until after publication on Friday. We regret any confusion. 

Author

  • Dylan Rhoney

    Dylan Rhoney is an App State grad from Morganton who is passionate about travel, politics, history, and all things North Carolina. He lives in Raleigh.

CATEGORIES: GOP ACCOUNTABILITY
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