This week, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is ringing in the new Republican administration with a series of events including a Gala Presentation and Inaugural Ball -- events that share a common sponsor: tobacco giant Reynolds American.
Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds American Inc. is the parent company of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., as well as three other tobacco-related companies, and it is a longtime powerhouse in North Carolina politics.
In 2012, Reynolds continued to flex its political muscle, with the company and its people using a variety of avenues to help McCrory and other Republicans. Among Reynolds' political expenditures in the 2012 election cycle*:
* REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS ASSOCIATION: According to the latest available records, in 2011-2012 Reynolds gave $441,337 to the Republican Governors Association. In the past election, the RGA was the single biggest outside spending group in North Carolina politics, spending more than $4.9 million on ads to help elect Gov. McCrory.
* REAL JOBS NC: In 2011-2012, RAI Services Co., a division of Reynolds American, gave $250,000 to Real Jobs NC, the outside spending group linked in 2010 to conservative financier Art Pope, who McCrory appointed to direct the state budget. In turn, Real Jobs spent more than $884,000 supporting Republican candidates -- just under $400,000 of that benefiting McCrory.
* REPUBLICAN STATE LEADERSHIP COMMITTEE: In the last election cycle, Reynolds was also the third-largest contributor nationally to the Republican State Leadership Committee, giving more than $700,000 to the Washington, D.C.-based group. The RSLC in turn gave $300,000 to Real Jobs NC for its efforts in Gov. McCrory's race and other state contests. The RSLC also gave $25,000 to Citizens for Accountability, a GOP-leaning outside group focused on the North Carolina lieutenant governor race, and more than $1.1 million to Justice for All NC, a group backing the GOP favorite for the N.C. Supreme Court, Paul Newby.
* RAI PAC: The Reynolds American Inc. political action committee gave $4,000 to Pat McCrory's campaign, according to N.C. State Board of Election records.
* N.C. CHAMBER IE: The N.C. Chamber's independent expenditure arm raised $50,000 from RAI Services for 2011-2012. N.C. Chamber IE in turn spent more than $250,000 on behalf of state candidates, a majority of them Republicans (though McCrory was not among them).
* REYNOLDS EXECUTIVES: Several top leaders at Reynolds also made personal contributions to McCrory's campaign. These included Martin Holton and David Powers ($8,000 each), John Wilson III ($5,000), Robert Dunham ($2,000), and Stephen Strawsburg ($1,000).
Of course, corporate sponsorship of North Carolina's inaugural events is nothing new. In 2009, Democratic governor-elect Beverly Perdue's fete was backed by Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC. The insurance giant is sponsoring a reception for McCrory on Friday.
Reynolds' lead sponsorship of McCrory's event, as well as the company's aggressive spending in North Carolina politics this election cycle, signal that Big Tobacco's political presence will be felt for years to come.
* NOTE: Final figures for 2012 election contributions and spending won't be available until mid-January, when the final reports are filed.