Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tillis holds another D.C. fundraiser

N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, attacked by some GOP rivals for his ties to the party establishment, heads to Washington again next week for a Capitol Hill fundraiser.

Tillis will be the guest at a fundraiser at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The Monday afternoon event will be headlined by Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Thune of South Dakota and Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

The event will help fill Tillis's coffers, at $2,500 per political action committee and $1,000 per person.

It's not Tillis' first D.C. fundraiser. In December Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky helped host an event at the home of Geoffrey Gray, a lobbyist who, according to The Examiner, has represented Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Republican strategist Karl Rove, hardly a favorite of tea party conservatives, also has headlined Tillis fundraisers.

Greg Brannon, one of Tillis's seven GOP primary opponents, has sought to make an issue of Tillis's establishment ties. Brannon has been backed by tea party favorites, Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.

Another Republican candidate, Mark Harris, has his own fundraiser coming up Saturday. Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee will headline a Raleigh fundraiser for the Charlotte pastor.

Update: Kevin McLaughlin of the NRSC says the group does not endorse in primaries, and its Capitol Hill building is open to any GOP candidate.

Monday, March 17, 2014

'Bunny Money' heiress dies at 103

Rachel "Bunny" Mellon was American royalty. The heiress to two family fortunes, she helped Jackie Kennedy design the White House Rose Garden and even entertained the Queen of England at her Virginia farm.

Mellon, who died Monday at 103, also had a cameo role in one of North Carolina's biggest scandals.

She was the source of more than $750,000 funneled to former Sen. John Edwards for his unsuccessful presidential campaign. The fund, dubbed "Bunny Money" by the Edwards' campaign, became part of the testimony at Edwards' 2011 trial for alleged federal campaign law violations. He was acquitted on one charge, a mistriail was declared on five others.

Mellon sent the money through Bryan Huffman, an interior designer from Monroe who had befriended the heiress a decade earlier. The money was eventually used to cover up Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter.

"She didn't particularly condemn people for having affairs," Huffman testified during the trial. "But she thought maybe you should pay your girlfriend yourself."

Huffman, 50, saw Mellon on Saturday when her family members called and invited him up to her northern Virginia farm to say goodbye.

He says Mellon bore Edwards no hard feelings.

"She had a good time with the notoriety, I think and she forgives people everything," he said. "She was magnanimous toward him. People that took advantage of her have to live with themselves.”