GOP candidate for NC Governor blasts public spending as his family nonprofit rakes in taxpayer funds

In his bid to become North Carolina’s first Black Governor, Republican Mark Robinson assails government safety net spending as a “plantation of welfare and victimhood” that has mired generations of Black people in “dependency” and poverty.

But the Lieutenant Governor’s political rise wouldn’t have been possible without it.

Over the past decade, Robinson’s household has relied on income from Balanced Nutrition Inc., a nonprofit founded by his wife, Yolanda Hill, that administered a free lunch program for North Carolina children. The organization, funded entirely by taxpayers, has collected roughly $7 million in government funding since 2017, while paying out at least $830,000 in salaries to Hill, Robinson and other members of their family, tax filings and state documents show.

The income offered the Robinsons a degree of stability after decades of struggle that included multiple bankruptcies, home foreclosure and misdemeanor charges — later dropped — for writing bad checks. In Robinson’s telling, the financial turnaround provided by the organization also allowed for his ascent into the North Carolina government.

“Yolanda’s nonprofit was providing a salary for her that was enough to support us,” Robinson wrote in his 2022 memoir, noting its growth gave him the freedom to quit his furniture manufacturing job in 2018 and begin a career in populist conservative politics.

“I either was making speeches or was downtown at my wife’s office, helping her with her work,” he wrote of juggling his early political activity with Balanced Nutrition, which records indicate paid him about $40,000 in 2018. “When I ran for office, I stopped doing that. … Now my son does it.”

Yet now in the closing months of a swing state campaign, the nonprofit that provided the family a vital lifeline has become a political liability. In March, state regulators launched a probe of the organization’s finances after flagging years of financial irregularities, including over $100,000 in unaccounted spending.

The scrutiny adds to Robinson’s challenges. He already has drawn negative attention for his history of inflammatory comments that include calling former first lady Michelle Obama a man and using the word “filth” when discussing gay and transgender people.

Robinson, who would oversee a state budget of more than $30 billion if elected governor, has denied any wrongdoing and blasted the inquiry as politically motivated. His campaign declined to make him or any of his family members available for an interview. But campaign spokesman Michael Lonergan defended Balance Nutrition’s work, citing a routine audit that didn’t find any “material weaknesses” in the organization’s 2021 finances.

“Lt. Gov. Robinson is proud of the work his wife has done to help needy children get nutritious meals,” Lonergan said. “Democrats are weaponizing bureaucracy against the family of their political opponents.”

Personal struggles

Robinson often speaks of struggle and redemption, setting himself apart from career politicians and wealthy influencers in Raleigh, the state capital. This compelling autobiography, combined with Robinson’s brash talk, has endeared him to supporters of Donald Trump, who endorsed Robinson at a March rally. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee often refers to Robinson as “Martin Luther King on steroids.”

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