Commentary

Editorial: McCrory must clarify changing story re: “pay-to-play” meeting with prison contractor

This morning’s “must read” is the lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer. It concerns the nagging “Keith gate” story surrounding Gov. Pat McCrory, his Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry and the allegations regarding the demands of one of his big campaign contributors. Here’s the N&O:

“Frank Perry, the former senior FBI agent who now heads the state Department of Public Safety, prides himself on his reputation as a stand-up guy. Indeed, he has been a straight talker from his days in law enforcement and has been respected by elected officials Republican and Democratic.

But Perry seems to be digging himself into a controversy over an October 2014 meeting among Gov. Pat McCrory and senior officials and Graeme Keith Sr. and Graeme Keith Jr., who held through their companies lucrative contracts to do prison maintenance. McCrory, a friend of the Keiths, arranged the meeting.”

As the editorial goes on to explain, Perry’s story has changed. First Perry said he didn’t recall the Guv being in a “side conversation” (as McCrory has claimed) when Keith said he needed to get something in return for his generous campaign contributions and then, later, he claimed his “recollection is exactly the same as the governor’s.” Here’s the conclusion to the editorial:

After the October 2014 meeting, the governor asked Lee Roberts, his budget director, to determine whether Keith’s contracts, not endorsed by other state officials who were not as enthusiastic about “privatization” of services, should be extended. Roberts recommended they be extended for one year. They now have expired. Roberts, after a relatively short tenure, has resigned as budget director.

McCrory has a responsibility to clarify this, and yet he has declined to comment of late. That’s not helping his own credibility, and Perry’s apparently conflicting statements aren’t helping him. The public deserves more.”

Amen.

Commentary

Are Duke Energy and the McCrory administration committing a human rights violation?

Coal ash eventSome victims of Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution gathered with a group of advocates and activists in front of the North Carolina Governor’s mansion this morning. Their message to Gov. Pat McCrory (who was recently revealed to have had a secret dinner meeting last summer with representatives of his longtime former employer (i.e. Duke) even as the company was facing prosecution for its misdeeds):

“Come have dinner with us too….Oh, and bring some water, too.”

Lord knows they could use both.

The water would come in handy because Duke has now informed a large number of folks living near ash sites in Goldsboro, Belmont and other places that their water is no longer safe to drink. Indeed, the company is now providing these folks with one gallon of bottled water per person per day for an indeterminate period even as it continues to drag its feet in cleaning up the sites.

As one homeowner noted (after listing some of the numerous untimely deaths that have occurred in her community from cancers and other diseases), “just imagine trying to live this way.”

And the dinner meeting? Well, if McCrory would actually break bread with some of these people (many of whom stated this morning that they have been asking for such a meeting for months to no avail) it might force him to summon up a smidgen of empathy. After all, we’re talking about average, middle and working class folks living in the 21st Century in one of the most advanced societies on the planet, who have lost access to one of the fundamentals of life: safe drinking water.

It’s enough to make a body think of the ongoing disaster in Flint, Michigan (where the city and state are now attempting to deal with the fallout from having poisoned a large portion of the citizenry through their shortsighted decision to save a few bucks).

Indeed, as one public health expert argued persuasively the other day, it’s quite plausible that the scandal in Flint amounts to a human rights violation:

“This emergency goes beyond simply a public health problem….It is something much worse: a human rights abuse in an American city. In 2010, the United Nations declared that ‘ … clean drinking water … [is] essential to the realization of all human rights.’ Flint’s contaminated water will prevent children from realizing their human right to health, enumerated in Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Let’s hope things don’t get that far in North Carolina. But if these wronged North Carolinians don’t soon get some relief, perhaps it’s time to start raising the same question here: Are Duke Energy and the McCrory administration committing (or, at least, enabling) a human rights violation? It would be interesting to hear McCrory’s explanation as to why they aren’t.

Commentary

Bring back the McCrory of 2008!

David Lewis

Rep. David Lewis

Not that we needed one, but this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer offers yet another reminder of how state budgets are put together in Raleigh these days. As the story written by Patrick Gannon of The Insider details, Rep. David Lewis, the powerful chair of the House Rules Committee “took significant steps in this year’s legislative session to protect the state contract of a friend and campaign donor” by “tucking language into a technical corrections bill that became law in the final minutes of the session – ensured that contracts for those services would continue to be bid out to the private sector when they expire next year.”

In other words, a law was written secretly in the dead of the night to protect a campaign donor with no public sunlight or input.

Now, consider this fact in the light of yesterday’s edition of the Fitzsimon File, in which Chris reviews thePat McCrory press event expressed position of Gov. McCrory on such shenanigans in 2008, during his first run for Governor. As Chris notes, McCrory promised “to veto any state budget that includes items added in private sessions and not included by the House or Senate during the regular budget process.”

Sadly, of course, as Chris also notes, “Virtually every budget McCrory has signed would qualify for a veto under that promise but he has signed every one of them.”

Obviously, as occurred with his infamous repudiations of his 2012 promise to approve no further restrictions on access to abortion services, something changed between the 2008 campaign and McCrory becoming Governor in 2013 and it wasn’t good.

It’s too bad. Some of those 2008 promises made a lot of sense.

Commentary

Another day, another story about a fat cat McCrory contributor getting special treatment

Pat McCrory 4Got a traffic problem in your neighborhood? No problem, just call Gov. McCrory!

In case you missed it over the weekend, Raleigh’s News & Observer has yet another story about a campaign contributor to Pat McCrory getting special treatment. In this case, it appears a new Highway Patrol campaign to crack down on sleeping truckers was spurred by complaints from the owner of a winery (and McCrory campaign contributor) who kept seeing sleeping truckers parked along the highway exit he uses in Surry County. This is from “McCrory donor sparked Highway Patrol campaign against napping truckers”:

“[Charlie] Shelton says he met with McCrory in February or early March to express concern about truckers who park along the ramps up and down I-77.

‘It’s unsightly,’ Shelton, 80, said in an interview. “It’s against the law to park a tractor-trailer and go to sleep there and throw your trash out on the road. …

‘I asked to talk with him about it, and I spent a little time explaining it to him. And that’s when he got the troopers involved and the DOT involved.’

Of course, none of this is at all surprising. North Carolinians have long known that fat cat political contributors get special access to a lot of politicians and McCrory is clearly no exception. Still, the stories coming out of the Guv’s office of late are so blatant and, well, small-time (can’t the man at least save his interventions for something a little more weighty than a penny ante prison contract and traffic on a highway exit ramp?) as to be almost pathetic.

The bottom line: North Carolina must get back on the road to public campaign financing that it was traveling before Republicans took power five years ago. The only way to break the stranglehold that big money has on our political and lawmaking processes and to put an end to the kind of embarrassing corruption stories that keep emanating from the McCrory administration is to have voter owned elections. Let’s hope it doesn’t require criminal justice system involvement of the kind that sent former Speaker Jim Black to jail to make such change a reality.

Click here to read the entire N&O story.

Commentary

Another editorial blasts McCrory’s behavior in prison contract controversy

Barney Fife

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The editorial page of Moore County’s The Pilot newspaper featured an excellent editorial this week on the brewing controversy/scandal surrounding Gov. Pat McCrory’s intervention to help a campaign donor and friend secure a prison contract. The editorial compares McCrory to the comic character Barney Fife from the old Andy Griffith show.

This is from “A Troubling Kind of Give-and-Take”:

“There sure was some wide-eyed optimism spouting from Pat McCrory when he ran for governor in 2012. He promised an end to politics as usual — a revolving-door relationship between elected officials and the lobbyists who earn their keep by getting fat contracts or concessions for those whom they serve.

McCrory pledged to end such lucrative pathways and hailed his Republican administration for its new way of doing things.

And yet, when just this very sort of pay-to-play relationship fell at the feet of the governor himself recently, what was his counterpunch? For a governor who prides himself on being a leader and man of integrity, did he own up to his failings?

Hardly. Instead, he tried to shoot the messenger. He took aim at The News & Observer of Raleigh and The Charlotte Observer for printing an investigative piece detailing how well he looked after his old Charlotte friends’ business ventures rather than the best interests of North Carolina taxpayers.”

The editorial goes on to describe the Guv as having acted “wrongly and unethically” in the matter and to lament his behavior since it came to light — that is, attacking the journalists who uncovered the matter:

“Predictably, McCrory followed up his denial with accusations that the liberal News & Observer was out to get him. But since the story was so well-sourced — with text messages and emails from McCrory’s own staff — the governor was left whining about photo composition and headline writing.

We are pretty sure that past Democratic politicians, such as Mike Easley and Beverly Perdue and Jim Black, offered the same blame-the-media strategy in the midst of their own pay-to-play scandals, and look how it worked out for them.

McCrory promised to be the new sheriff in town — but instead of Andy Taylor, North Carolina got Barney Fife, his shaky revolver hand and his single bullet.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.