LKN advocacy group will influence voters

featured_cfblknBy Dave Yochum

Lake Norman business owners will have a bigger voice in next year’s local elections thanks to a new business advocacy group called Committee for a Better Lake Norman.

The group has been formed “strictly to educate the public on business issues to make the Lake Norman area more business friendly,” said John Aneralla, one of the founders of Committee for a Better Lake Norman. It’s a 501c4, a special corporation for advocacy and “social welfare.” The monies raised are not deductible, but the donors remain private.

These groups are allowed to participate in politics, as long as politics are not the end all and be all. These advocacy groups can influence elections, most often through print and broadcast advertising, as well as mailers

An independent financial advisor in Huntersville who ran for N.C. Senate two years ago, Aneralla said the group hopes to “communicate pro-business issues and support pro-business elected officials.”

Next year is a key election year.  Town Board seats in Cornelius, Huntersville and Davidson are up for grabs, not to mention the mayor’s seat in all three towns.

One of the key attributes for a 501c4  is its ability to protect the identity of donors. Doing so protects them from possible retribution should an opposing candidate win an election.

Crossroads GPS is a national conservative group. Organizing for Action is a 501c4 organized by President Obama’s campaign staff.

One thing the group won’t get involved in are toll lanes for I-77, says John Hettwer, the president of the Committee for a Better Lake Norman.

“There are times when we as a community need to raise money to support candidates in North Mecklenburg who we think are business friendly and doing things properly whether they be Republican or Democrat,” he said.

Like any other market, some North Mecklenburg elected officials have been less than popular with some members of the business community.

In Cabarrus County, business leaders formed a Political Action Committee four years ago to influence the Cabarrus County Commission elections. Commissioners like Chris Measmer, Larry Burrage and Jason Osterreich were turned out of office in part because of Cabarrus Jobs Now, a PAC formed to educate the public on economic development issues. The Republican trio, who lost in the May GOP primary, had turned down incentive grants for new business and industry in Cabarrus.

The first week of December, new pro-business and pro-incentive commissioners were installed.

“It took four years to get the Cabarrus Commission back on track,” said one political insider in Cabarrus, who asked not to be named. “You figure the first year, we could only change two people, and then it took two more to get two more seats, just because of when the seats came open.

“With a group like this you have a mission and you have duties and you get them done. You need a dedicated group.”

Hettwer is a former volunteer chairman of the Lake Norman Regional Chamber of Commerce and himself a former candidate for Cornelius Town Commission.

“The main thing we want to do is educate the public and put the facts out there,” he said.

The group intends to back candidates that understand fiscal accountability and being “business friendly.”

The intention, he said, is a benefit to the community. “What do we want at the end of the day? We want common sense to prevail,” Hettwer said.

The group has already opposed the proposed quarter-cent sales tax, which was defeated in the November elections. “There was nothing to keep the county commissioners from just throwing that money into the general fund,” Aneralla said.

The group has less than $10,000 in its coffers, Aneralla said. “We hope to raise a lot more than that,” he added.