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Making a dirty business even dirtier

12-3In case you missed it, the McCrory administration took yet another step in recent days to assure that the always opaque and ripe-for-corruption business of bestowing economic “incentives” (i.e. giveaways to corporations) becomes just a little bit more opaque and even more vulnerable to corrupt practices.

As many folks are already aware, McCrory and his Commerce Department Secretary, Sharon Decker, have been moving to privatize the Department’s business recruiting/incentives work for some time. The plan — not yet fully fleshed out because the General Assembly has yet to formally  sign off on the deal — is to fire a bunch of Commerce Department employees and then recreate and re-establish their functions in a publicly-funded, private nonprofit.  To make matters worse, the whole thing appears to be thoroughly infused with partisan politics as one of McCrory’s top fundraisers has been designated to serve on the board of the new nonprofit (the fundraiser, John Lassiter, finally resigned last week from his position on the renew North Carolina Foundation — a group that exists to generate pro-McCrory propaganda — after months of drum-banging Chris Fitzsimon).

The latest outrage, however, involves the hiring of the new nonprofit’s first executive director. The person selected — a fellow named Dick Lindenmuth — is a conservative Republican businessman from Raleigh who helps lead a corporate consulting firm that appears to specialize in helping struggling companies.  Nothing wrong with that at first blush -notwithstanding the corporate double-speak that permeates the group’s website, but as reporter Patrick Gannon explained in Raleigh’s News & Observer yesterday, there’s another very troubling twist to the story:  Lindenmuth does not plan to leave his for-profit company while he heads the nonprofit!

In other words, not only are the McCrory people taking one of the most questionable and troubling functions of state government and burying it even deeper out of the public eye in a private, politcally-connected nonprofit funded with public dollars, they’re not even requiring the guy they’ve selected to run it give up his job in the private sector!

I mean, what the heck? As I told Gannon,  this is just making the whole murky, deal-making business of corporate incentives that much murkier and more troubling.

The bottom line: North Carolina probably ought to do away with the whole sleazy corporate incentives business entirely, but if we’re going to keep it around, the least taxpayers can expect is that it be as open and transparent as possible and that the people who oversee it work for us and us alone. With the latest moves, the McCrory administration is moving backwards on both fronts.

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