Who Is Jim Blaine? The Politically Connected Consultant Advising UNC System Leaders

Since 2019, an influx of former political staffers have taken roles and consulting engagements within the UNC System. Jim Blaine, who was appointed to the UNC Board of Visitors in 2018, is one of these individuals. Blaine served as Chief of Staff for Senator Phil Berger from 2011 to 2018. Prior to that, he was a director of the Republican State Senate Caucus, and led the 2010 campaign effort to put Republicans in control of the North Carolina Senate. With such a deeply political background, why has he been retained by the supposedly independent UNC system as a consultant for $15,000 per month, plus expenses, to provide “policy advice” and work on “special projects”?

The Differentiators, a political consulting firm launched in 2019 by Blaine and his business partner Ray Martin—also a former top Berger staffer—provide policy analysis, political intelligence, and advertising to their clients (which now includes the UNC system). First brought on during the university system’s presidential search in 2019-2020, Martin and Blaine are able to influence policies and practices of the UNC System and Board of Governors. According to a past invoice, Blaine and Martin worked a total of 23 hours during the month of July for their $15,000 consulting fee ($652 per hour).

Blaine and Martin were the last of the expensive and politically connected advisers brought on during the search for a new university system president. However, they are not the only ones. President Peter Hans’ staff includes three former chiefs of staff to republican General Assembly leaders — Bart Goodson and Andrew Tripp.  (Andrew Tripp was Jim Blaine’s replacement in Phil Berger’s office.) Hans is also advised by an amalgamation of lobbyists.

Jim Blaine is a UNC Chapel Hill alumnus. He remarks on his own consulting website that the University gave him a diploma after six years with an agreement “that he not return.” As of the publishing of this post we have no information on why Blaine was asked not to return to UNC, nor why he decided to return. What is clear is that, as a political operative, he is associated with the UNC system at a time when many of the embarrassing and headline grabbing incidences have occurred. Maybe it is just a coincidence that Blaine is a policy advisor and consultant to the UNC System at a time of such turmoil. With his ties to Senator Phil Berger, a hefty consulting fee of $652 per hour (plus expenses), and a contract that can be extended for as long as 10 years, the people of North Carolina deserve more transparency on his activities and how his advice is influencing UNC System policy and the actions of UNC System leaders. 

12 thoughts on “Who Is Jim Blaine? The Politically Connected Consultant Advising UNC System Leaders

  1. It is this type of cronyism that has led the University of North Carolina to its current sad state. The control of UNC by an ultra-conservative legislature has changed the formally respected liberal arts university into a sad shadow of itself. UNC used to be a national example of what a top-tier educational institution could be. Academic freedom, unfettered exchange and debate of ideas, and the presentation of all sides of major issues to students were respected hallmarks of the university. Those fine academic standards are no longer evident in Chapel Hill. What a shame!

  2. Maybe to try and counterbalance a little bit of the left wing insanity so prevalent in the UNC system today? The ones who preach tolerance are the least tolerant of diverse views.

  3. Isn’t it obvious that Blaine’s “promise never to return” was a lighthearted reference to his six years in Chapel Hill, along the lines of the t-shirts reading, “Carolina: the best 5or 6 years of my life”? Isn’t it obvious that the Coalition’s “scandals” are thin gruel, with only the Affair Hannah-Jones qualifying as a genuine scandal and that only because a writer who penned a massive, hateful, divisive lie like “1619” should never have been hired for a distinguished, lucrative chair (and wouldn’t have been considered if she wrote from a conservative perspective)? Isn’t it obvious that, if there is a scandal now at Carolina, it is that the only view genuinely tolerated is Woke-Progressive and that “politicization” means bringing a tiny semblance of balance? Isn’t it obvious that the University’s “slide” is a canard, in light of ever-increasing research grants and applications, including “international”, and continuing lofty rankings? Isn’t it obvious that the Coalition is just another hit group that prefers the major tilt to the left to continue unmolested?

  4. First, I take exception to calling these political operatives conservatives or ultra conservatives. There is such a thing as a conservative. I may disagree with them, but they add to the political debate and are due respect. The trumpers are not conservatives; they are more aligned with fascist ideology rather than American conservatism.

    In all fairness, I do not know if Mr. Blaine is a trumper, but since his allies are trumpers, I am not being rash to assume he is a trumper, thus not a conservative.

    Furthermore, how ironic that a political party /movement that has dedicated itself to promoting ignorance and the denial of facts wants control over a university. For example, they raised the bogus issue of teaching CRT in schools. The issue is not CRT because CRT is not taught in public high schools or elementary schools. They simply do not want an accurate history taught at all. Of course, they also want
    to raise a racial issue for the demagogues in the Republican/trump camp. A second point, their denial of science behind COVID, masks, and the vaccine is just shocking. There is so much more. But having trump fascists in charge of a university is like putting a child molester in charge of a daycare.

  5. The Carolina Way. The liberal View is our way or no way. History is a problem for the Old Well these days. If you are dealing with a bunch of liberal Democrats and want a lobbyist to grease the way you would not necessarily want a Republican to be doing it. It would be the same if the situation was reversed and it is dealing with a Republican controlled Legislature so why not a connected Lobbyist firm. I new Jim Blain back when he was working for the Republican Senate Minority Leader and he was young and so was I. He has the experience to lobby any side and has been in this game a long time. Carolina paid a lot of money to get what they wanted from the NCAA and there no going to class athletics problems. I bet they did not care if it was Democrat or Republican or a Trumper. The object is to Win, at any cost. You know The Carolina Way.

    1. Winning at “ANY”

        cost is


        the Carolina Way. Neither is cronyism and craven political power grabbing.

  6. You “new” Jim Blaine? My 6th grade English teacher would have corrected your comment, politely suggesting you learn the difference between “new” and “knew.”

    The force of an argument is often weakened by the writing skills of the presenter.

  7. Carolina is a very successful major national and international research university. It admirably serves the state and the nation. We should be proud of it and celebrate it. The legislature’s efforts to politicize it with party political policies and programs will have the unintended consequence of destroying its reputation. It takes many decades th build a distinguished reputation that enhances the value of our student’s degrees It takes only a few years to destroy it. Young people in America are not voting Republican but that is not because universities are “brainwashing”. them. Radical Republicans can destroy our great universities but in the end young people will still be voting against them. They need to reconsider some of their policies and be open-minded toward people who may disagree with them on some issues. We need a center-right Conservative Party that regards its political opponents as competitors not enemies. It has taken hundreds of years to entrench the belief in the legitimacy of the opposition. It is time we started talking like adults who feel like members of the same community and believe that everyone is entitled to half a loaf but no more

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