NC Political Connections By News 14 Carolina reporter Tim Boyum
(At my house, I cannot get this channel anymore, as we were forced to give up cable due to poor bandwidth issues and move to the better performing Directv. Sorry Tim.)
Fern Shubert Speaks for Us Published by admirers of former Senator Fern Shubert. Shubert served the ole' North State well, until stepping down from her office to make a run for Governor in 2004. While she is greatly missed from office, she knows where the "bodies are buried" and is still found digging up the truth.
ARRA News Service News for social, fiscal & national security conservatives who believe in God, family & country. We seek to uphold traditional family values, Republican principles & ideals, limited government, free markets to promote innovation, & individual freedom. The ARRA News Service is an outreach of the Arkansas Republican Assembly.
Crystal Clear Conservative Blogger Krystal Weeks writes about N. Virginia and DC metro area politics, as well as national issues. Check her out!
Cuba Generation Y This 30-something blogger publishes at great risk to show readers outside Cuba what everyday life is like inside the oppressive, Communist nation. Think you like Communism...read this blog and think again!
Smart Girl Politics Conservative Women bloggers, and a few men, who are here to refresh you when you are thirsty.
LadyBlog A modern take on traditional women. Classier than tea service. Like Fight Club but with better hygiene. Sightly more aggro than a cucumber sandwich.
The Political Byline One of my fellow Top Conservatives on Twitter. Check him out! He's not afraid to speak his mind. Based in the Motorcity.
Capital Letters Jordan Schrader covers North Carolina government for the Asheville Citizen-Times.
Sister Toldjah National conservative blogger who tells it like it is. She loves North Carolina and occasionally picks up items from KCC on her blog.
Called 2 Action Check out this site, run by Steve Noble. He's a member of the religious right and he tells the truth as he sees it. He calls himself an equal opportunity offender. Check out what he has to say!
NC Politics New Bern native (and your blogger's fellow high school classmate -NBSHS '85) Steve Hale writes from Pitt County about his take on the North Carolina Political scene. Check out his blog and offer up your comments.
Dateline Obamastan Cary's John Byrnes writes about national, state, and local politics. He currently serves in the Army National Guard.
Driving With One Hand Kevin LeCount is apparently driving with his LEFT hand, as this blog is written by my good friend who works for SEANC, the union of the NC State Employees. His wife, Heidi, works at my alma mater, Meredith and are good folks, despite their political leanings. Check them out.
Evans has been the head of the Cultural Resources department since 2001, when Gov. Mike Easley appointed her to the position. In addition to her state government duties, she remains involved in multiple real estate businesses.
One such real estate deal may prove to be a situation where she used her high position with the state to acquire a home in a sweetheart deal.
Read why one building contractor told Carrington, "I ain't tellin' you nothing" here.
A lot of people in New Bern are furious at Governor Mike Easley and Lt. Governor / Governor Candidate Bev Perdue over a plan to sell boat slips at the marina at the Sheraton. To understand why, you need to know about the ethics complaint filed because of a similar deal involving the marina in Southport.
The Carolina Journal has a whole series of fascinating articles about how changes at the state- owned marina in Southport led to an ethics complaint against Easley. (Thanks to the hard-nosed research of Don Carrington.) The ethics complaint was of course dismissed by the Governor’s friends, but most members of the public who learn the facts find the transaction fishy.
(“To say that a fish rots from the head down is to say that "bad leadership leads to a bad organization or that a corrupt organization is the result of a corrupt ruler or leader."”Merriam-Webster Online)
The Carolina Journal’s archive describes the Southport marina deal this way:
“Gov. Mike Easley was the subject of a complaint, now dismissed by the N.C. Board of Ethics, over his relationship with owners of Southport Marina, Inc., who received a long-term lease to operate the state-owned marina. Opponents of the lease called it a "sweetheart deal" for Easley's friends. Meanwhile, business partners of those involved with the marina also own a coastal development called "Cannonsgate," where Easley purchased a valuable lot at a seemingly bargain price.”
The Southport reports contain too many disgusting items to even begin to list them all, so I’ll just recap the basics. A Mr. Garrett, with whom Easley had prior business dealings and who, with his associates, is described as a well-known contributor to Democratic candidates, was building luxury condos in Southport across from the marina and wanted to buy the marina. Unfortunately, when the Ports Authority solicited bids, he only bid $5.1 million and the high bid was $16 million.
Apparently the marina was only for sale to the right buyer and the wrong buyer had the high bid, so instead Mr. Garrett and his associates were given a lease that permits them to control the marina until 2040. Since bidding didn’t work for them, no bids on the lease were even solicited. The well-documented efforts to conceal the identities of the principals make it clear that the parties to the deal had something to hide, and it’s a shame the major papers didn’t do more to help the Carolina Journal expose the sleazy facts.
But now the press has a chance to make up for past transgressions, because a deal that looks even shadier is being pushed through right in Bev Perdue’s hometown, adjacent to the amazing bridges that make drivers from other areas wonder who managed to misallocate so much money.
Not surprisingly, as in Southport, the folks developing condominiums near a marina would like to be able to market slips at the marina. Some suggest they would like to be able to convert the Sheraton to condominiums in the near future. It is hard to see how either could be done under the terms of the development and operational agreement, but as in Southport, you never know what might happen.
Watching insider real estate deals is like looking at one of those paintings that shows one image morphing over time into another through a series of pictures. There’s never a noticeable change from one picture to the next, but, for example, in the first picture you see a cow and in the last you see a barn. Or, in the first picture you see an a public marina and in the last privately owned slips with the public excluded or in the first a hotel intended to work with the convention center and downtown businesses and in the last private condominiums.
In the case of New Bern, there is no question that the city acquired a large tract of waterfront property for urban renewal and wanted to sell most of it for commercial development, but there’s also no question that the city wanted a name hotel with an adjoining commercial marina operated by the same owners, both intended to serve visitors, support the convention center, and improve the business climate in downtown New Bern. They also clearly wanted to preserve a public easement all along the river on the property they owned. The city and the developers signed legal documents that were meant to accomplish those goals.
Recently the LLC which purchased the Sheraton and adjacent property in order to build condominiums has advertised “Deep Water Marina Slips Available for Sale.” While the ads now say “Not part of SkySail Condominiums,” the slips are clearly part of the marketing plans for the condominiums, just as in Southport.
And, just as in Southport, when local citizens objected to what they saw happening, they formed a group to raise public awareness. The New Bern Group is called New Bern Aware, and their web site offers a ton of information about the history of the project. The City of New Bern’s website also offers a helpful array of documents establishing the history of the project.
The city’s documents clearly show that the original agreement obligated the buyer of the property “to construct upon Tract No 1 a hotel facility consisting of no less than 100 rooms a meeting center with a main hall of no less than 10 000 square feet capable of seating comfortably no less than 400 persons 10 000 square feet of retail space and a 100 slip marina with related facilities and to manage and operate the same as hereinafter provided.”
Why then did the LLC that acquired Tract 1 along with all the rights and duties of the original developer not acquire the marina? Instead, the new deed went to Marina Business Ventures, LLC, along with any easements required to utilize the docks. Was that because of the plans to sell dockominiums?
While New Bern Aware has raised questions about the validity of the easement transferred to the new owners of the docks, it is hard to understand how the original agreement even permits the ownership and management of the marina to be severed from the hotel. Taking it a step farther, can the owner of the hotel sell the rooms as condominiums if they agree to continue to manage the property and encourage the owners to rent the rooms? That does seem to be where this is headed.
The management agreement also requires the hotel planned as part of the project to be operated “for so long as it is reasonably possible to do so, but, in any event, during a period of twenty-five (25) years from the date of closing.” Yet legal documents prepared for the town which discount the claims of New Bern Aware state: “It would be appropriate at the same time to ask the current owner of the Hotel to extend its commitment to operate under the flag of a national franchise for an additional period of time. This would be prudent in light of the separation of ownership now existing between the owner of the Hotel Trent Neuse Hotel LLC and the owner of the Marina Business Ventures LLC.”
Let’s see. The owners already have a contract calling for them to operate the hotel “for as long as it is reasonably possible to do so,” but apparently that requirement has been erased. Or does the owner get to independently decide what is reasonable?
Apparently they do as long as Easley/Perdue make the rules. The easement they had the state grant to enable the new marina owners to proceed with their plans “says the company should make temporary or transient dockage available, "but only to the extent determined by (the company) to be commercially practicable."” (New Bern Sun Journal, August 27, 2008)
So who are the investors in the New Bern deal and what are their ties to Perdue and Easley? And isn’t it funny that, just as in Southport, when private citizens made a stink about selling the slips, suddenly sales were out and long term leases were in. Déjà vu all over again.
Rules to remember: Conflicts of interest should be fully disclosed by public officials. People who try to hide business relationships probably have a good reason for doing so. Leopards do not change their spots. Criminals tend to be creatures of habit.
Fern Shubert (R-Union) is a former State Representative, State Senator, Town Manager and Candidate for Governer. She currently serves as the NC State Director of the National Right to Read Foundation. She frequently writes for The County Edge.
Your blogger grew up in New Bern and is a graduate of New Bern Sr. High, class of 1985. Her parents remain nearby and she still visits frequently and loves her hometown. She knew Beverly Perdue back when the Lt. Governor was a hospital administrator.
Did your hackles rise as much as ours when Mary Easley (left) received her 88% pay raise at NC State University?
Apparently Don Carrington's did. He was so annoyed, he uncovered the truth. Now Carrington has them all cornered.
Today, he's reporting in the Carolina Journal Online, that the provost of NCSU, Larry Nielsen, says he acted alone in hiring her. But Carrington's investigation of the matter reveals a conflict of interest due to the Governor's longtime friendship with NCSU Board of Trustees chairman, D. Queen Campbell.
Turns out that Campbell sold the Gub a sweetheart of a deal on a beach house at Cannonsgate on the Crystal Coast.
In return, it appears that Easley gave Campbell an appointment to the NCSU Board of Trustees. And, in return for that, Campbell gave Easley's wife a nice job, and then an 88% raise recently.
Will there be an official investigation regarding a conflict of interest and ethics violation? Probably not, until Carrington forces them to do so, as usual.
Hats off to Don Carrington from Katy's Conservative Corner, our favorite sledgehammer!
While Elizabeth Edwards suffers from incurable breast cancer, former NC Senator, former trial Lawyer, and UNC-CH employee, Johnny Edwards, has been caught with a mistress in the Beverly Hilton Hotel. An article goes on to describe a love child.
Linda Daves and the NC GOP have hit another one out of the park! The North Carolina Republican Party has produced an ad (below) linking Barack Hussein Obama's extreme preacher to the Democrats running for NC Governor.
This blogger says "forget it gang". The RNC may be correct on some issues, but this is about North Carolina, and we don't play politically correct games down here.
Both Beverly Perdue and Richard Moore have stuck their fingers in the wind and "endorsed" the America-hating Presidential candidate.
Now, Linda Daves is making them pay. Watch the ad and see for yourself.
If you are a liberal and want to post comments complaining of the age-old claim of "racism", don't even bother. Obama is multi-racial (as is your blogger's husband) and that old junk doesn't work anymore. Martin Luther King, Jr lead us past this more than forty years ago. You folks need to get past it too. Shame on the RNC for kowtowing to these antiquated clowns!
There is nothing wrong with Daves calling it as she sees it and she should not have to be defending these actions from her supposed allies.
The phone is ringing off the hook at NC GOP headquarters and the money is said to be rolling in, but it's not enough. Our party needs more and they need YOUR contribution to get this ad off the Internet and ON THE AIR. Contribute online, here.
The state party is apparently receiving threats, as the Raleigh Police Department has been guarding NC GOP headquarters all day. The doors to the Hillsborough Street building are locked. After the firebombing of the same structure by anarchists a few years back, they've learned to expect the unexpected.
This is making national news and Katy's Conservative Corner has never been more proud to be a North Carolina Republican than today.
UPDATE: Katy's Conservative Corner has obtained an email written by NC Rep. David Lewis, the recently elected national committeeman to the RNC, who told his followers that the ad has been pulled. Your blogger verified this as untrue:
From: David Lewis(political) To: (name removed to protect the guilty) Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2008 11:16 AM Subject: extreme ad
Thanks for the email.
I had no idea the ad even existed until the news this morning.
I called the Party’s Chief of Staff Chris McClure and the ad has been pulled.
I guess we will just have to judge the fallout over the next few days.
Update Update- This From state Rep. David Lewis, North Carolina National Committeeman-
I made a mistake this morning in responding to a concerned Republican. In fact, I responded before I even saw the ad. I had seen some news coverage of the ad on WRAL but hadn’t seen the whole thing.
I contacted Chris McClure at State Party Headquarters and misunderstood what he told me about the ad. I did not, as I should have, check with Chairman Daves.
I tried too quickly to respond to an email without looking into all the facts.
Chairman Daves has made me aware that the Party will continue running the ad.
I am deeply sorry to have put out incorrect information.
The truth is I have been working on a fund raising event with Vice President Cheney and have not been actively involved with this particular media effort.
I want to do a good job in responding quickly to emails and phone calls and sometimes I am a little too quick.
This miscommunication is absolutely my fault and was not intentional.
I sincerely apologize to everyone who has been inconvenienced by my foul up and am going to try to put out a press release later today to clarify my mistake and that I was not authorized to speak for the Party.
While Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-10th) was in Baghdad, he allegedly committed two serious security breaches. The first was attempting to defy a security officer's demand that he not access a green zone gym. (See previous article.)
The second occured when he took video of enemy rocket attacks. This action was deemed an operational security breech as McHenry named certain buildings in the video.
For some months Brunswick County Sheriff Ronald Hewett has been under investigation by the FBI. SPINCYcle has reported several times that a Grand Jury has been meeting to hear testimony about abuses in office by Hewett.
The situation has gotten progressively worse. His own deputies, both current and former, petitioned the Brunswick District Attorney, Rex Gore, to remove the high sheriff from office. Employees say Hewett has been neglecting the duties of his office, demeaning and intimidating his employees, showing up drunk at crime scenes, and engaging in reckless and dangerous conduct to the public.
The petition also stated that Hewett had tried to force department employees to work on his political campaign, while on and off duty, and that Hewett furnished his son a department car for personal use.
D.A. Gore has evidently been conducting a separate investigation from the FBI. The situation came to a head last night with Hewett suspended from office pending a formal hearing on Monday.
Under state law the county coroner, Greg White, will become acting sheriff. A Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis will determine whether Hewett's removal is permanent. If Hewett is permanently removed the Democratic Party of Brunswick County will have 30 days to name a replacement.
Sources in Brunswick are clearly dismayed at this latest turn of events. Hewett has been one of the most popular officials in Brunswick since his election in 1994, but sources say he started changing in 2005.
The drama now shifts to the courtroom Monday at noon.
Last week I urged my State Representative to call on his fellow Democrat, Rep. Thomas Wright, to resign from the State House. The News & Observer printed his response to me: "There's going to be a lot of things said by my opponent on this issue."
Actually I'm saying just one thing: Rep. Wright should resign now, and my own State Rep. should publicly say whether he agrees. After all, his own Democrat leaders in the State House have uncovered what they call "breathtakingly massive" fraud by Rep. Wright.
In his effort to protect Rep. Wright my opponent first claimed he couldn't say anything "until all of the information come[s] out". But now that it has, his new reason to not call for Wright's resignation is that "due process" prevents him from commenting.
In reality, the media is reporting today that House Democrats plan to hold a special caucus meeting ahead of the legislative session to discuss Wright's expulsion. My opponent, the Caucus Secretary, says he doesn't know what's on the meeting's agenda. Media reports say they will discuss a censure motion instead of expelling Rep. Wright. Certainly, they need to discuss the best way – politically - to handle this public relations nightmare. So much for due process.
If my opponent believes in open government (this week is "Sunshine Week") and really wants due process, then he will either open his caucus meeting to the public or release detailed minutes after the meeting - verified by an impartial observer.
Don't hold your breath though, he's still keeping secret the audit results from the scholarship scandal in which donor contributions were used for scholarships for caucus members' families.
Katy's Conservative Corner has previously endorsed Brian Gossage over "Bow Tie" Ty Harrell in this race. Gossage has proven himself a capable leader and has served his fellow citizens of Apex well since his election to Apex Town Council in 2003. He was re-elected in 2007.
On a personal note, Bryan Gossage was the first non-family member to hold my then-month-old premature son. He is married to Chloe and they have a 2-year-old daughter.
To learn more about Bryan Gossage, visit his website.
Katy's Conservative Corner has obtained three letters and a press release written by a Mr. Raymond Spencer. All are available for download at the bottom of this post.
Spencer, apparently a friend of embattled Rep. Thomas Wright (D-Hanover), has made formal complaints of campaign reporting violations committed by Speaker Joe Hackney (D-Orange), Rep. Hugh Holliman (D-Davidson), and Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland).
Spencer says in a press release (attached below), that he has uncovered violations of the law, including a class 2 misdemeanor.
Mr. Spencer is clearly going after the three that have persued Rep. Wright. Rumor has been circulating for months that this might happen. But, does this go far enough?
In the general election of 2004, Glazier was forced to file an amended campaign finance disclosure report of $42,000. Spencer states that this discrepancy could have well pushed Glazer over-the-top in an election in which he defeated his Republican opponent by only 51% - 49%.
Spencer wrote "If the Republicans and others had been aware that $40,000.00 was being pumped into the campaign at the last minute, they may well have reciprocated...This was a fraud upon the voting public in the 2004 election."
The letters that Spencer wrote to Gary O. Bartlett, executive director of the North Carolina Board of Elections, are availble for download below. Apparently all three letters were also hand-delivered to a Wilmington-area newspaper, but were not acted upon. Was this yet another cover-up of the media trying to protect one of their best sources? We may never know, or we may find out during Thursdays hearings.
Late Thursday afternoon, Denise Weeks, principal clerk of the North Carolina House, announced in an e-mail that the more than 800-page Select Committee Report on why Thomas Wright should be "disqualified" from being a North Carolina legislator, was now available for download on the Internet.
The book, she said, would be distributed to House Members as soon as the printing was done, presumably sometime on Friday.
Thankfully, it is available to be read or printed from a computer, but printing it on your average consumer computer is likely to be more time consuming than just waiting for the hard cover.
The book will be printed on both sides of the paper, required by law in a budget amendment offered by then-Senator, now Congressman Virginia Foxx, several years ago.
That brings the weight down to 400 hundred pages, or 256 megabytes, if you think like a computer geek, as I do.
You can try and read the whole Adobe Reader pdf file by downloading it in whole or in part at the following link:
If you have a broadband connection, the download took considerably less time and tucks away nicely on a second tier 250 Gigabyte flash drive.
The gestalt of the charges boils down to two overall wrong things.
1. Thomas Wright tucked away hundreds of thousands of dollars of totally unreported campaign contributions and he then acted like some addicts behave in thinking himself immune and invisible.
2. He then spent that money on what he might soon learn in prison are called "gee-gaws," trinkets and luxuries. He was not only a making his entire living as a legislator, he was living high on the hog and "a going concern."
(Read the rest of the story, by clicking the link, below.)
The following article was submitted by Fern Shubert:
I know it is tempting to go after one of (Jim) Black's (D-Mecklenburg) buddies, but as the only member of the 2001 House who never voted for Black and who warned about the corruption long before Joe Sinsheimer showed up, I'm uniquely positioned to raise a few questions, such as:
Why does anyone believe what they read about Wright in the papers? After all, they call John Rhodes (R-Mecklenburg) ineffective and Ed Williams of the Charlotte Observer told me most people consider me a nut. When they're all piling on Wright, praising (Rick) Glazier(D-Cumberland), and whitewashing (Pryor) Gibson (D-Anson), I smell a rat.
Why does the press, that wouldn't report my well-documented charges on any number of issues, hang on Joe's every word?
Why did Joe focus on Black, who I'd long identified as the runt of the litter when it comes to corruption, instead of the big dogs?
Why did he next focus the spotlight on Thomas Wright (D-New Hanover), almost a non-entity, instead of any big-money players? An investigation of Gibson would have turned up a heck of a lot more than they found on Wright. In fact, there are any number of people who could have been expected to yield a lot more violations.
Why did Joe lavish so much praise on Glazier, who (Tony) Rand (Senate Majority Leader, D-Cumberland) used to oust conservative Democrat Alex Warner (D-Cumberland), when Glazier is so clearly part of the Gibson cover-up?
When I asked Joe Kiser (R-Lincoln) years ago to whom in state government I could take some really serious charges for investigation, he said "Well, there was one honest guy in the SBI, but they fired him."
Easley and Cooper control the SBI (State Bureau of Investigation). Why did the SBI decide to investigate Wright so thoroughly when they won't even make casual inquiries into much bigger malfeasance (unless the feds are already looking) if it leads to the seriously corrupt political class?
I think Black challenged the Senate and lost. Wright had been on the Black team, and he had also crossed the big dogs. This is a demonstration of what they can do to anyone who does not followorders.
Don't get me wrong. Not long ago, I would have been on Wright's case too. But things in Raleigh are seldom as reported by the main street media.
If my complaint and all future complaints are going to be handled with the same enthusiasm as Wright's, let the show begin. I'm all for weeding out corruption. Personally, I see a sideshow planned to divert attention from far more serious issues and far greater misdeeds.
According to inside sources, embattled Rep. Thomas Wright (D--New Hanover), will not lie down and take the fall that the Democrat leaders expected him to do. The sources told Katy's Conservative Corner that Wright understands that now that he has been caught, he is to cooperate and accept his punishment. The idea is to take the spotlight (and legal heat) off the Democrat Leadership, in the North Carolina General Assembly that they control.
According to numerous sources, the FBI has been investigating the affairs of a top Democrat elected leader, and the Thomas Wright affair is supposed to misdirect the media from that and other misdoings. However, unlike Jim Black, Michael Decker, and others, Wright won't play their ball game and take the fall.
Former state Senator Fern Shubert mentioned this story five days ago on KCC,here. She wrote Wright is a scapegoat for having worked with Republicans, though she reminded this blogger that she maybe had only spoken "ten sentences per year at most" to Wright and was not at all close with him.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Moveon.org, and other extremist left groups have been running ads supporting Congressman Walter B. Jones, Jr (R-NC 3rd District). Moveon.org funneled money to the Jones campaign via another group, innocently called votevets.org, but is staunchly anti-war.
Joe McLaughlin (left), Jones' opponent in the May 6th Republican primary wrote recently:
"His latest campaign finance report shows donations from big money unions including the AFL-CIO. It also includes a $500 donation from Rufus Edmisten, the former Democrat N.C. Secretary of State who resigned under a cloud of scandal. In fact, much of his financial support is coming from Democrats. Now, the ACLU (famous for its' opposition to prayer in schools, securing our borders and protecting the sanctity of marriage) has joined the list of liberals trying to save Walter's political career. "Walter Jones is the poster-boy for the liberal left and they roll him out whenever someone accuses them of not having bipartisan support on an issue. In short, it is important for the Democrats to keep Walter Jones in office."
What's the difference between a crack dealer, a pimp, and a greedy businessman that hires illegal aliens? Nothing.
In significant ways, business people who hire illegals are, in fact, doing more harm to society than some of our worst criminals. These people take advantage of a cheap labor pool which, in turn, kills the need to motivate, train, and uplift our own citizens. Add to that all the hidden costs to our schools, hospitals, and police departments, and the extra financial burdens leave us increasingly unable to help our own.
The illegal immigration situation is the greatest "state-sponsored law-breaking scheme" in American history, and this indictment extends to a federal government that has been unwilling to deal with what has become the "political football" of the new century.
Congress continually fumbles the ball for fear that will cost them votes. We are demonizing illegal aliens...when the real guilt lies with the people who employ them.
It's the illegal jobs that fuel the illegal immigration: find these companies and punish them severely. Make it unprofitable to hire illegal aliens and the migration will reverse itself.
Dr. Carl Mumpower is a member of the Asheville City Council and a Republican running for Congress in North Carolina's 11th District.
State Auditor Les Merritt today released a Progress Report summarizing the reforms implemented since he took office in January 2005.
Merritt, a former small business owner who is seeking re-election in 2008, is the first Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to serve as State Auditor of North Carolina. The Progress Report can be viewed by at www.auditormerritt.com.
“When I took office three years ago, I found a number of things in disarray: there was a huge backlog of unfinished investigative audits; many state-funded non-profits were not filing the required reports; there was no program in place to train state-funded non-profits on compliance requirements,” says Merritt. “The office had a lot of good, hard-working people; it just needed new leadership. I am pleased to report that we have made tremendous progress on many fronts.”
Some highlights from State Auditor Les Merritt’s Progress Report include:
-Reduced a backlog of investigative audits by 76%;
-Dramatically increased the number of state-funded non-profits filing the required reports;
-Launched a new initiative to train personnel from funding agencies and state-funded non-profits;
-Dramatically reduced the processing time for non-profit reports;
-Developed a new, innovative “strategic auditing” process to help identify unusual trends and potential problems in state spending; and
-Increased emphasis on performance audits.
“While we have accomplished a great deal in three short years, there is still much work to be done,” says Merritt. “We’ve been willing to challenge the status quo and fight to change the way state government does business – and this has stepped on some toes in Raleigh. That’s why many of the politicians who have ruled the roost for so long will work to derail our reform efforts during the upcoming election. We’ve accomplished a lot – and our state simply cannot afford to go back to the old way of doing things.”
Leslie W. (Les) Merritt, Jr. was elected State Auditor of North Carolina in 2004, becoming the first Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in North Carolina to hold the office. Prior to being elected, he owned and operated a small business for over twenty years.
Richard Moore wants YOU to know the "truth" about Beverly Purdue. Check out "Fact Check Purdue" to get the "real word" from the "inside" on Purdue's troubles and why she would make a terrible governor for North Carolina.
Your blogger isn't weighing in on this one...only sitting back and watching with amusement. Let the games continue.
Editor's Note: Representative John Blust (R-Guilford) penned this article on December 17th. Due to the holidays, your blogger is a little late getting it posted.)
We are only in the middle innings of understanding the multitude of ways that Jim Black and his cronies corrupted state government, said Joe Sinsheimer, a former Democratic campaign consultant who ran a web site calling for Black's resignation, So intoned the Raleigh News and Observer last week after Rep. Thomas Wright, Democrat of New Hanover, was indicted on five charges for bilking about $350,000 from lenders, non-profits, and his political contributors.
According to the Charlotte Observer: Among other things, Wright failed to report nearly $200,000 in contributions, spent $185,000 in contributions for personal use and talked a state employee into writing a bogus letter about forthcoming state funds so that a foundation he headed could get a $150,000 bank loan that was never repaid.
The Charlotte Observer opined that In doing so he helped rob the people of North Carolina of their trust in elected government and contributed to the state's growing reputation for corruption in public office.
A few months prior to the revelations about Wright, Rep. Jim Black, who was Speaker of the North Carolina House until January 1, 2007, stunned the House Democrats and some of his Republican allies by going into federal court and pleading guilty to bribery, corruption, and obstruction of justice charges. Up until then, Black had continued to insist on his innocence despite the fact that the recipient of a bribe from Black, former Rep. Mike Decker, had pled quilty in early August of 2006 and was awaiting sentencing to federal prison.
Most Democrats continued to stand behind Black even after public hearings by the State Board of Elections uncovered some of his wrongdoing, and even after the Decker plea. In fact, the CharlotteObserver had reported that Black was the frontrunner for re-election as Speaker as late as December 3, 2006, after Black was determined to have won a narrow, 30 vote re-election over Republican Hal Jordan.
On the very day in February, 2007 that Black was to appear in court and enter a guilty plea, one Democratic Representative stood up during the House session that day and urged House members to go over and stand behind Black at the proceeding.
Although some of the information in the indictments of Rep. Wright was new, much of it had been part of the public record since early May when public hearings by the State Board of Elections revealed that Wright had failed to report around $185,000 in campaign contributions.
This was well publicized at the time. I remember many legislators getting a chuckle out of the fact that Wright spent some of this campaign money at a local Victoria's Secret store - wondering humorously if he had given the purchases to his wife or some other woman. Everyone serving in the House knew that the allegations against Wright were well-supported by documentary evidence, and that Wright refused to come forward and offer any explanation or defense.
In view of the tremendous hit the North Carolina House took earlier in the 2007 session by the stunning guilty pleas of Black, one might think that House members would be ready to throw the book at the next House member who further embarrassed the institution. Instead, almost the exact opposite occurred months of seeming indifference until the law enforcement authorities acted last week.
After news of the indictment of Wright was reported, Doug Clark of the Greensboro News & Record keenly observed:
Wright's troubles have been building for a long time, and legislative leaders have dealt with them like they always do wait for the courts to handle it. Thank goodness state and federal prosecutors haven't been as lenient lately about crooked legislators. If it were up to the General Assembly itself, all the messes would be swept under the rug.
This candid assessment is, in effect, a stinging indictment of the legislature as an institution. All of us who serve there know that some very untoward things have gone on. We ought to get out front and lead the way to positive changes that will prevent the recurrence of the wrongdoing we have witnessed.
Instead, there is almost a bunker mentality of hunkering down and laying low until the storm passes. But if what the leading critic asserts is true that we are only in the middle innings of this storm, this strategy may not be one that helps the majority Democrats and those Republicans who were once allied with Black in return for some of the spoils.
As much as I want to see all the wrongdoing ferreted out and punished, I know that given the history of the legislative ethics process, we in the legislature are not going to aggressively police ourselves( legislative ethics has been an oxymoron). Of course, I wish the state and federal law enforcement authorities all the best in their ongoing investigations.
Despite the efforts of the authorities, the storm isn't going to abate because legislative practices and structures that remain firmly in place almost guarantee that some legislators will push things too far astray again in the future, even if all past wrongdoing is discovered and punished. Old habits are hard to break. There is far too much power concentrated in the hands of a few legislators and most know that their short-term, self-gratification as a member of the legislature depends mainly on being a part of a sycophantic claque.
Concentration of power was the only reason why special interests gave the kind of money to Rep. Wright that he wrongfully diverted to himself. It is the only reason why interests like video poker operators, optometrists, chiropractors and others gave such large amounts to former Speaker Black. It is the only reason why some tobacco companies gave tens of thousands of dollars to Black's former co-Speaker, Richard Morgan.
Each was in a position to individually deliver to a monied interest a legislative outcome outside what should be the normal, always-observed (in the absence of an agreed upon emergency) legislative process.
Take away the concentrated power and there is nothing to be purchased.
The answer is the very one I have asserted many times before enact the necessary reforms to disperse the legislative power and make both the House and Senate the deliberative bodies they were intended to be from the foundation of our Republic!
These reforms include rules changes (and consistent enforcement of the changed rules!) so that one member can no longer single-handedly hold up legislation or unilaterally and secretly insert a provision into the recesses of a massive, quickly-moving, bill at the request of a monied interest!
The reform proposals are there. Some of us have filed bills to try to enact necessary reforms reforms like term limits for legislative leadership positions so no one member builds up inordinate power - reforms like ending the rigging of legislative districts (and hence the rigging of elections) through partisan gerrymandering - reforms that prevent interest groups from directly purchasing influence and buying results.
A coalition of left-center-right groups has teamed up to advocate for these and other reforms. These reforms have wide-spread public support.
If legislative leaders and rank-and-file members truly are serious in the denunciations they made of Wright, Black and Decker after they got caught by the outside authorities they ought to stop blocking votes on key reforms. Not only have votes not been allowed, but these reforms have not even been permitted to be considered at all - and any member advocating the reforms risks the retaliation by the few bent on holding on to power.
The current stain of scandal ought to lead the legislature to its finest hour! Instead of doing the minimum possible to attempt to get by politically, we in the legislature should be doing the maximum possible to truly solve the problem and restore trust and confidence in the people s institution!
Until real reforms are enacted, when it comes to the North Carolina legislature, no one should be shocked, shocked that corruption is going on in here!
Editor's Note:Katy's Conservative Corner calls on Rep Thomas Wright to resign immediately.