Carolina Journal News Reports
CJ Series

Golden LEAF/tobacco funds

Golden LEAF has operated often as a political slush fund. Along with the Tobacco Trust Fund and the Health and Wellness Trust Fund, these operations distribute North Carolina's share of the Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco companies. As much as $2.6 billion in unaccountable spending is involved. Check here for updates on the boondoggles these funds underwrite, along with legal and legislative attempts to rein in the spending.

(4.28.11) House Budget Proposal Redirects Tobacco Settlement Funds
RALEIGH — Under the GOP House budget plan, the Golden LEAF foundation would lose its $68-million allocation next year, and the Tobacco Trust Fund and the Health and Wellness Trust Fund would be abolished.


(2.04.11) General Assembly Can Dissolve Golden LEAF, Other Tobacco Funds
RALEIGH — In recent years, defenders of the funds receiving money under the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with tobacco companies have said the funds could not be transferred or diverted to the state’s General Fund because the use of the funds was directed by court order.


(2.02.11) Senate Committee Guts Golden LEAF’s 2011 Allotment
RALEIGH — For years, Republicans and limited government advocates have criticized Golden LEAF as a political slush fund, but Democrats at the Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee hearing defended it as a job-creator.


(12.09.10) Perdue Targets Boards and Commissions
RALEIGH — Appointments to boards and commissions traditionally have been considered a major element of political patronage. Perdue is seeking to eliminate dozens of boards to which Republicans are poised to make significant appointments.


(8.09.10) Golden LEAF Funds Yacht Slips, iPod Touches
RALEIGH — Others grants include funds for renovating a vacant structure in Winston-Salem to house a “green business incubator” and an initiative to encourage consumers to spend at least 10 percent of their grocery budgets on locally grown foods.


(8.02.10) Tobacco Trust Funds Footbridge to Nowhere
RALEIGH — The state-run trust fund was meant to assist North Carolina farmers, farm workers, and related businesses displaced by tobacco’s declining fortunes. It handed out a record number of grants this year.


(11.23.09) Golden LEAF Retains Close Ties to Easley
RALEIGH — As federal prosecutors investigate alleged campaign finance violations and other suspected wrongdoing by embattled former Gov. Mike Easley, his law partners and other associates continue to play key roles in the management of the Golden LEAF Foundation, which distributes half of the state’s tobacco settlement money.


(7.17.08) A Lab, A Grant & A Bad Odor
Doing a sales job on a biodefense lab in Granville County hardly qualifies as legitimate expenditure of Golden LEAF funds.


(5.28.08) The Global TransPark’s New LEAF
To the extent they hear the details, most North Carolinians will be angered, not appeased, by the latest TransPark/Golden LEAF deal.


(11.03.06) Nip Venture-Capital Idea in the Bud
Here’s such a bad idea that the right response, as Deputy Barney Fife might put it, is to “nip it in the bud.”


(8.17.05) Teapot Museum Creates Tempest
RALEIGH — A proposed Alleghany County museum that would display 6,000 teapots worth more than $5 million has become the poster child for pork barrel spending in the recently passed state budget. A $400,000 earmark for the Sparta Teapot Museum was frequently mocked in the media in the past week, and by Republicans in the legislative minority. But Rep. Jim Harrell III, an Elkin Democrat who sought the funding in the state budget, said the museum's critics don't know enough about the project to evaluate its worth.


(1.10.05) Golden LEAF Defends Funding
RALEIGH — Gov. Mike Easley and members of the General Assembly will again have to tangle with a large state budget gap when they return to work later this month, and millions of dollars from North Carolina's share of the national tobacco settlement will likely help close it. Policymakers took a combined $240 million from the Tobacco Trust Fund and Health & Wellness Trust Fund in 2002 and 2003. But they have failed to touch the foundation that they designated to receive the other half of the state's tobacco settlement money: the Golden LEAF Foundation, which will seek to protect its funding again in 2005.


(12.20.04) No to Horse Parks, Yes to Tourism
RALEIGH — The Golden LEAF Foundation stopped funding equestrian parks this year, at least temporarily, but instead it found several other tourism-related projects in North Carolina worthy of support in its annual round of grants. The foundation’s board determined that more than $1.5 million should assist community plans to develop local tourist attractions. It funded several off-the-beaten-path projects, including $135,000 to aid Jackson County in “the transformation of the closed…landfill into a regional center for the growth of the arts and crafts community, the local agriculture and native botanical industry, and heritage tourism based on the region’s long history of craft excellence.”


(8.13.04) Golden LEAF Rides New Horse
RALEIGH – After funding the Carolina Horse Park Foundation for three consecutive years, Golden LEAF has found another equestrian organization to support. The Piedmont Equestrian Park and Conference Center, based in Gaston County, is a nonprofit organization that was set up by the county and city to help attract economic development. The slow development of the project has made local officials apprehensive. "Guess who’s going to get accused or squandering this money if this thing flops?" asked one county commissioner. "Everybody on this board."


(5.03.04) This is Not a Parody
It's a story about subsidized entities asking for more subsidies for a profitable industry that's moving North Carolina business out of state. And it's true -- really.


(2.22.04) Separate but Equal -- On Economic Development
The February cover story of Carolina Journal provided evidence of a conflict between economic-development policy and the NC constitution.


(2.13.04) Auditor Reports on Nonprofit Funding
RALEIGH — The State Auditor’s Office has delivered to the General Assembly and the Easley administration a new report detailing grants to nonprofit organizations by state agencies last year. The annual report catalogues all grants made by state agencies to nonprofits such as Smart Start partnerships, economic development groups, and community service agencies. Legislators last year set a deadline of Jan. 31 for compiling the report as part of an effort to increase oversight of nonprofit agencies. Most of the nonprofits met the reporting requirements in time, but a few did not.


(12.23.03) Golden LEAF lists 2003 grants
RALEIGH — The Golden LEAF Foundation awarded $300,000 each to Columbus County and the Town of Windsor for infrastructure improvements at two new state prisons. The nonprofit foundation, established by the General Assembly to distribute half of the state’s portion of the 1998 tobacco settlement, also decided in 2003 to fund a Southern-Pines-based horse park for the third year in a row. The Carolina Horse Park Foundation began in March 1998 primarily as a nature conservancy group to prevent land development, and changed its name twice as it transitioned into an equestrian events support organization.


(8.08.03) Another Round of Promises & Pork
North Carolinians have also had more than their share of false promises and costly political boondoggles. And now it's happening again, with biotechnology.


(2.12.03) Businessman Sues Group Affiliated with Golden LEAF
Don Carrington breaks a story about a businessman who has sought to build an ethanol plant in North Carolina for more than 20 years and is suing a consortium of interests including the North Carolina Grain Growers’ Cooperative, which is heavily financed by Golden LEAF.


(12.20.02) Golden Leaf Official’s Business, Brother Linked to $10 Million Grant
Don Carrington reports that two brothers, one the chairman of Golden LEAF and the other a director of a grain growers cooperative, own businesses associated with a $10 million foundation grant to build a soybean-processing facility and a related biodiesel fuel plant.


(10.30.02) Easley, Basnight Manipulate Golden LEAF, Papers Show
The Golden LEAF Foundation, which administers half of North Carolina’s share of the national tobacco settlement, claims to operate independent of political persuasion. But documents obtained by Carolina Journal suggest that Gov. Mike Easley and N.C. Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight wield significant influence over the nonprofit foundation, reports Paul Chesser.