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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 Read More

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Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon, a Democrat who took office this year, was arrested today on charges stemming from a federal corruption investigation.

Cannon is accused of accepting bribes from business developers who were actually working undercover for the FBI in exchange for help from Cannon in navigating the city of Charlotte’s permitting and zoning processes. Cannon is accused of taking  $48,000 over the course of several bribes, and the FBI investigation preceded Cannon’s mayoral term when he was on Charlotte’s city council.


News of Cannon’s arrest was made public this afternoon, and developments are likely to continue. A copy of the probable cause affidavit, in which the FBI details its case, can be read here.

Here’s the latest from Charlotte’s WCNC, who met up with Cannon outside the federal courthouse:

In total, Mayor Cannon accepted about $48,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room and use of a luxury apartment, the FBI says.

NBC Charlotte reporter Rad Berky was the only one outside of the courthouse when Mayor Cannon walked out from the building. The mayor didn’t have much to say when asked about the charges.

“What happened? Can you tell us what happened?” — RB

“Well, nothing at this point that I can discuss. But I’ll certainly be back in contact with you.” — PC

“What would you tell the voters of the city today, sir?” — RB

“There’s nothing too much I can say at this point, but when I’m able to, I’ll touch base.” — PC

Cannon is free on a $25,000 unsecured bond.

 

Below is a summary of the accusations levied against Cannon, detailed in the FBI’s probable cause affidavit:

Screenshot of Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon's indictment. Text by FBI agent detailing accusations

Screenshot of Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon’s indictment. Text by FBI agent detailing accusations

 

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This morning’s Wilmington Star-News makes the case yet again for doing away with North Carolina’s absurdly gerrymandered political maps and the embarrassingly partisan process that gave rise to them.

“When they rode into office in the 2010 elections, Republicans pledged to govern differently than their Democratic counterparts. If by different they meant that a different party would be employing the same old political tactics to retain power and shut out the minority, then yes, it’s different.

But it does not serve the voters, and that is who the system is supposed to represent. The voters – remember them?

There’s a better way, but Honorables of both parties have resisted. A truly bipartisan coalition is pushing for an independent redistricting commission to help reduce the influence of politics on the redistricting process. There is no way to eliminate it entirely, but we can at least remove the process one step from politicians who have a vested career interest in drawing districts that allow them, in effect, to choose their own electorate.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

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Aldona WosAn editorial in this morning’s Winston-Salem Journal pulls few punches in characterizing the latest incident of political cronyism in Gov. Pat McCrory’s embattled Department of Health and Human Services and demanding a full accounting. That incident, of course (as reported and expanded upon here and here earlier this week by N.C. Policy Watch) was the department’s bestowal of $310,000 in pay to a “contractor” whose permanent job just happens to be working for the private company owned by the husband of DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos (and whose main work product during the period in question seems to have been to recommend cutting a number of safety net programs). This is from the editorial:

“The latest manifestation of Wos’ closed-government philosophy arose in news reports about Joe Hauck. Wos hired him as a private consultant and paid $310,000 for 11 months of work. But so far, it’s hard to tell what he did for that money. Read More

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In case you missed it over the weekend, the Charlotte Observer featured an excellent (if sobering) editorial about how the end of public financing and the massive of influx of dark money is transforming the North Carolina Supreme Court into an institution that’s literally for sale to the highest bidder.

“North Carolinians got their first glimpse of big-money Supreme Court races in 2012. Outside groups funneled about $2.3 million into the state to help incumbent Paul Newby, the conservative in the nonpartisan race. That money swamped the $300,000 or so in outside money aimed at helping opponent Sam Ervin IV.

That was the most outside money of any race in the state other than governor. Newby, buoyed by corny banjo-playing TV actors, won 52 percent to 48 percent. That let conservatives maintain a 4-3 majority on the bench.

Special interests could have even more influence this year thanks to at least three changes in the law: Read More