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Aide: Cooper was never to be involved in fund distribution

February 15, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Gov. Roy Cooper’s office says it was never envisioned that he would decide who specifically benefited from $58 million paid into a fund by utilities building a natural gas pipeline through eastern North Carolina.

Republican legislators demanded Cooper’s lobbyist answer written questions by Thursday about an agreement signed by Cooper’s attorney and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Chief of Staff Kristi Jones responded instead.

The agreement directed money for environmental mitigation and economic development along the pipeline route. GOP lawmakers call it a “slush fund” to help Cooper’s allies and passed legislation giving the money to schools. Cooper criticized the move Wednesday but will let the bill containing it become law.

Jones says an executive order would have detailed distribution rules, with experts making award decisions, and with conflict-of-interest protections.

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