The Patrick Cannon mess: Helping to make the case once again for campaign finance reform

Patrick CannonBy all (or at least, most) indications. Charlotte’s disgraced former mayor Patrick Cannon is a rather pathetic, small-time crook. Though it’s hard to know exactly how someone with such a massive character flaw will behave in every circumstance, it seems a safe bet that he would be “on the make” in just about any circumstance — whatever the laws and rules governing the people who run for public office.

That said, Cannon’s swift and pathetic fall should serve as yet another powerful reminder of the corrosive and corrupting influence of money in politics — especially for those people who are not independently wealthy (or, at least, whose wealth does not match their perceived status). The hard truth of the matter is that it is very difficult to be an effective elected official in 2014 without: a) lots of your own money or, b) lots of someone else’s money. Part of this is just a matter of the way money can insulate people from temptation, but another big part revolves around how money can assure that a person will have a good chance at getting re-elected (and thus be taken more seriously while in office).

And , of course, the reason for the latter truth is the simple fact that our state and country both continue to adhere to the certifiably insane system of funding political campaigns in which only rich people and people willing to take lots of money from rich people can get elected.

North Carolina had taken several promising steps down the road toward wresting control of our political system away from fat cat funders and corrupt SOB’s like Patrick Cannon in the aftermath of the Jim Black, Michael Decker  and Meg Scott Phipps debacles when we passed several laws to to provide for public funding of candidates who could make some reasonable demonstration of public support. It was a great start down a road that would have all but assured many fewer incidents of the kind the City of Charlotte endured yesterday.

Unfortunately, conservative lawmakers beholden to the state’s top fat cat of all fat cats quickly saw to the demise of those promising reform laws under the disingenuous excuse of eliminating “welfare for politicians.”  Among all the sad policy development of the last few years, the elimination of public financing remains one of the saddest.

Is the demise of voter-owned elections temporary?  Let’s hope so. But given the ideological thick-headedness of the current powers that be, it’s a safe bet that the state will have to endure the disgrace of several more Patrick Cannons before real change of the kind we need can make a comeback


  1. Genie Maples

    March 27, 2014 at 9:36 am

    I am confounded by this phrase: “Part of this is just a matter of the way money can insulate people from temptation…” Money does not insulate people from temptation.

  2. Rob Schofield

    March 27, 2014 at 10:01 am

    I can see you’ve not spent much time at the General Assembly, Genie.

  3. Genie Maples

    March 27, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Not sure what you mean? The moneyed are not tempted, but the poor are?

  4. Rob Schofield

    March 27, 2014 at 10:32 am

    Well, obviously, there’s no iron clad rule, but as a general matter, experience has shown time and again that politicians living close to the edge financially are always more vulnerable to this kind of stuff.

    No one ever tried to bribe Michael Bloomberg. In contrast, when Rep. Michael Decker went down here in NC a few years back, the guy was living out of his van. He was someone the sharks could smell a mile away.

    Similarly, if everyone — your fellow lawmakers, lobbyists, etc… — knows that you have an empty campaign account and no great personal wealth, it automatically makes you a less effective and influential lawmaker because people have reason to doubt your ability to get re-elected and/or to contribute the THEIR campaigns.

  5. GOP Rules

    March 27, 2014 at 11:14 am

    This has nothing to do with campaign finances, this has to do with greed and arrogance. Irregardless of how much money is or is not behind a person, the democrat human nature will be to take the shady deal (think Black, Phipps, etc.)and spend it on the next vacation. Oh, and do you really think a politician is going to fill out a campaign document when he takes a bribe? Oh, and I thought Barry got elected with lots of small donations too…I know I have sent some money to candidates and I am not rich….according to Alan/ML I am just an unpaid Civitas intern.

  6. Genie Maples

    March 27, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    I think we are on the same side, just that maybe there is some odd shorthand in that statement or something. I think the moneyed are more apt to do unethical things rather than less. Just which unethical things they do, and how likely they are may differ, but I do not think money insulates against themptation, quite the opposite.

  7. Genie Maples

    March 27, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    Ugh, left out a phrase. ” how likely the are to get caught.”

  8. Sean D Sorrentino

    March 27, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    “Helping to make the case once again for campaign finance reform”

    Rather, I think it makes the case for public officials not having so much power to pick winners and losers that it makes sense to bribe them.

    And as for “no one has bribed Bloomberg,” who are you trying to kid? Bloomie basically bribed himself. He went from $5 Billion at the start of his mayoralty to $31 Billion today. How’s that work, exactly?

  9. GOP Rules

    March 27, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Spot on Sean.

  10. Alan

    March 27, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    GOP Rules strikes again with baseless nonsense, “the democrat human nature will be to take the shady deal” Really? And there’s no corruption in the GOP? You need to try harder, I give you an F for content and originality.

  11. ML

    March 27, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Money and power are always at the root of corruption. Removing both would be grand but part of being an elected official is that you have power bestowed on you by the electorate. It would be difficult if not impossible to disengage that fact. However, removing money in terms of campaign finance is not only a possibility but just about the only option to limit corruption. The cause and effect are not separated by much but of this country wants to continue to make our elected officials dependent on wealthy donors and special interest, we will all suffer the ills of spineless candidates in seek of a payday.

  12. GOP Rules

    March 27, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Nonsense? Not here in NC…..how many democrats have been indicted vs GOP?

    And ML/Alan? finally has a good point! Maybe you are not Alan after all as your comment was not pure crazy talk.

  13. Alan

    March 27, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    GOP Rules,
    Sorry to (continuously) disappoint. ML and I are two different people. I leave the crazy talk to your team.

    You do understand the concept of reflection, don’t you?

  14. LayintheSmakDown

    March 27, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    I don’t belive it GOP. All Alan/ML comments are pure…t….crazy….talk. Every….single….time.

  15. Alan

    March 27, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    Ah, pure reflection at work…

  16. LayintheSmakDown

    April 1, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    So you do not like seeing your own trolling used against you. Too bad, maybe use your trolling time actually thinking of a useful response instead.

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