House Minority Leader Darren Jackson (D-Wake) has taken a polygraph test involving a hotly debated veto override vote, he announced at a Monday press conference. Now he’s challenging Republican leaders to do the same.
“House Republican leadership lied about the session on the morning of September 11,” Jackson said Monday. “They have continued to lie about it since. This dishonesty not only impacts the state budget, which obviously is a big deal, but it has impacted how the entire institution of our state House functions.”
Since the surprise vote to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget veto in the state House on September 11, Republicans and Democrats have fought continuously over the narrative of that morning.
Democratic leadership says they were told there would be no votes that morning. Republican leaders say they made no such promise. Democrats say Republicans planned a “sneak attack” to override Gov. Roy Cooper. Republicans said they were surprised few Democrats were present at the Sept. 11 session and simply took advantage of it when they realized they had enough votes to win an override vote they had postponed for months.
Jackson said he recently took a polygraph test — commonly known as a lie detector test — to establish that his version of events is true.
Jackson maintains he was told by Republican leadership there would be no vote that morning, something Rep. David Lewis also communicated to WRAL reporter Laura Leslie.
Jackson said he doesn’t know whether Lewis was consciously lying, didn’t know there would be a vote or had been kept in the dark by House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), who called the vote that morning. A polygraph test should help to determine that question, he said.
At Monday’s press conference Jackson offered to pay the $400 fee for polygraph tests for the House speaker, Rep. David Lewis (R – Harnett), Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) and Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford).
Jackson suggested he will write the questions and pay for the tests. Though such tests are not admissible as evidence in court and there are debates about their scientific validity, Jackson said he believes they would go a long way toward assuring the public of the truth.
“I think people want to believe in their government,” Jackson said. “They want to believe their representatives don’t lie.”
Jackson provided his own polygraph results to reporters Monday.
At a reply press conference shortly after Jackson’s, Moore dismissed the idea of a polygraph test as “theatrics.”
“Look, this isn’t the Maury Povich show,” Moore said. “This is state government.”
Moore said he and Jackson are both attorneys and know that while used in investigations, polygraphs aren’t admissible in court.
“I don’t plan to get in the gutter with Rep. Jackson and play silly games,” Moore said.
Moore maintained there was nothing improper about the vote. He acknowledged Lewis said there would be no votes in a text to Leslie, but said he didn’t authorize that and believes Lewis when he says he didn’t make the same representation to Jackson.
Jackson also encouraged the press to request security video footage from the House floor on the morning of Sept. 11. Though black and white and without sounds, Jackson said, it will show that Republican leaders were not surprised when they arrived in force to find the majority of their Democratic colleagues missing. Instead, he said, it shows them moving quickly and in unison toward what he believes was a planned veto override vote.
Jackson said he requested the footage himself, planning to show it at Monday’s press conference. Though he was initially told he could have it, he said, N.C. General Assembly Police Chief Martin Brock later contacted him to deny him the footage, saying it is usually released only in the case of a crime.
Moore and Brock made that video available for view by journalists at the press conference but did not provide copies.
Jackson suggested a lawsuit over the vote could be on the horizon, saying there are legal questions about whether public notice is satisfied when a veto override is kept on the legislative calendar for two months or more.
Moore scoffed at that.
“Why am I not surprised?” Moore said. “They’ve sued about everything else. Why not this?”
“To think that a member of the House on a political question would want to involve the courts on the functions of the House,” Moore said. “It just shows a complete ignorance of the rules and the laws that govern the General Assembly.”
Moore also criticized Democratic leadership, who he said “intimidated, harassed and threatened” its members who wanted to vote for the budget. Moore said members who wanted to vote with Republicans on the budget were introduced to potential Democratic primary challengers as a threat.
“They don’t want to talk about the budget,” Moore said of Democrats, saying they can’t justify their opposition to it without resorting to theatrics about the process.
Asked if he had any regrets about how the vote was taken, Moore said he did have one.
“I wish it wasn’t that date, I’ll say that,” Moore said.
Not because Democrats were at 9/11 remembrance ceremonies when the vote was taken, Moore said — erroneous reports of which spread quickly. But because the controversy over the vote overshadowed 9/11 recognition that the House had planned.