As reported in this space yesterday, veteran North Carolina government watchdog Bob Hall has raised some very serious questions about the use of campaign funds by state Senate leader Phil Berger. In a complaint to the state Board of Elections, Hall has pointed out that Berger has been paying himself “rent” from his campaign funds that he is then, by all indications, using to purchase real property — most notably a townhouse in Raleigh on which he took out a mortgage in 2016. In other words, Berger pretty clearly appears to be profiting directly and personally via the redirection of campaign funds.
This is clearly a misuse of such funds and something that ought to be investigated by the board. (As an aside, it ought also to be unlawful too for politicians to rent Raleigh abodes from anyone with campaign funds, but that’s a debate for another day.)
Unfortunately, rather than taking the matter seriously and acting like an adult, Berger has apparently empowered a staffer to launch gutter-level character attacks on Hall. This is from a story on the matter in Raleigh’s News & Observer:
“This is just another example of Bob Hall being a bottom-feeder and a scumbag,” [Berger aide Dylan] Watts said.
Memo to the young Mr. Watts and his boss: Neither one of you can hold a candle to the integrity, class, work ethic or dedication to his state that Bob Hall exudes just getting up in the morning and firing up his laptop.
Bob Hall (a nationally-recognized “MacArthur Foundation genius”) is a North Carolina treasure. He is the man who helped call out the corruption of former Democratic House Speaker Jim Black and he is personally responsible for many of the political ethics laws in this state. More to the point, he is a man of deep faith and commitment to justice who has dedicated several decades of his life to selflessly serving his fellow human beings. For Berger to permit a clearly-uninformed junior staffer to attempt (however unsuccessfully) to smear Hall with Trump-like language is an embarrassment to Berger and the high office he holds.
Both Berger and his acolyte owe Hall an immediate apology. Even more importantly, Berger ought to own up to his self-enriching behavior, stop profiting personally from campaign contributions and pay back the money.