News

Former state Rep. LaRoque heads to prison today

Today’s the day for former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque to report to prison.

LaRoque, 51, a former high-ranking Republican in the state legislature from Kinston, was sentenced to two years in federal prison in July, after pleading guilty to criminal charge in connection with the theft of $300,000 from a federally-funded non-profit. He is expected to serve his term at a federal prison in Butner.

LaRoque

LaRoque

In the days prior to today’s prison report-in date, LaRoque issued a five-page statement to select media (N.C. Policy Watch not among them) stating that he had been targeted as part of a “witchhunt” in retaliation for his political views and his calling Rev. William Barber of the state NAACP a racist.

He accused the chief prosecutor and IRS agent who conducted the criminal probe of misconduct. He also accused N.C. Policy Watch of unfairly attacking him when a 2011 investigation into his management of the non-profits was published.

(We deny that accusation, and stand by the reporting that has been done.)

From the full text of LaRoque’s statement, published by the Kinston Free Press:

During my last term in the N.C. House in 2011, I received a ranting racist email from William Barber, President of the N.C. NAACP. I replied to the email asking that they discontinue sending me any email from a racist like William Barber. This is the same William Barber, who in 2014 in another racist rant, referred to South Carolina U.S. Senator Tim Scott as a “Ventriloquist’s Dummy.” Shortly after my comments about William Barber, I was smeared by N.C. Policy Watch, an offshoot of the partisan left-wing organization known as the N.C. Justice Center whose Board of Directors included William Barber. This organization colluded to smear me, along with attorneys John Marshall and John Archie of the Kinston law firm of White & Allen, who were representing my political opponent from the previous year’s election.

I believe my actions in advocating for my home town’s non-partisan elections and calling out William Barber as the racist he is was why I was targeted by the DOJ.

Federal prosecutors presented evidence that LaRoque used the federal-sourced funds from two economic development funds he ran to help buy himself cars, a Greenville ice skating rink and jewelry and replica Faberge eggs for his wife.

The federal investigation was opened after a 2011 investigative report was published by N.C. Policy Watch that pointed out LaRoque’s excessive salaries for managing the small non-profits, which were governed for years by a board made of his immediate relatives, and his loaning of money to close associates and political allies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which provided the funds for the non-profit business lending groups, provided scant oversight of LaRoque’s dealings for several years.

Both federal and IRS rules governing non-profits have strict rules about how the money could be used, and directors of non-profits are specifically prohibited from using their non-profits for personal benefits.

 

 

Commentary

Sweepstakes industry corruption and NC politics: How bad is it?

RSVP today for next Tuesday’s Crucial Conversation luncheon:
Sweepstakes industry corruption: How far does it go? What should be done?

Featuring Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina

Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy NC

It’s been almost a decade since the efforts of a determined group of nonprofit watchdogs, led by Democracy North Carolina Executive Director Bob Hall, helped expose the corruption of former North Carolina House Speaker Jim Black. In addition to driving Black from office, those efforts helped spur a number of improvements to state laws governing campaign finance, gifts to public officials, lobbying disclosures and many other important areas.

Now, however, corruption has reared its ugly head again and there are real questions as to whether the existing structure for enforcing state campaign finance laws can respond adequately to the challenge. As detailed in a letter Hall delivered to federal and state prosecutors earlier this month, several of North Carolina’s most important political leaders were the recipients of large and potentially illegal campaign contributions from individuals affiliated with the controversial “sweepstakes” industry in 2011 and 2012. Strangely and surprisingly, however, officials at the State Board of Elections chose not to follow up on Hall’s findings. Now Hall and his colleagues are appealing to the U.S. Attorney and Wake County District Attorney to take a second look.

Join us as Hall explains his findings, what Democracy NC is asking prosecutors to do and the overall state of political corruption in North Carolina politics today.

Click here to register

When: Tuesday, August 25, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Click here for parking info.

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

Sweepstakes industry corruption: How far does it go? What should be done?

NC Policy Watch presents a Crucial Conversation luncheon —

Sweepstakes industry corruption: How far does it go? What should be done?

Click here to register

Featuring Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina

Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy NC

It’s been almost a decade since the efforts of a determined group of nonprofit watchdogs, led by Democracy North Carolina Executive Director Bob Hall, helped expose the corruption of former North Carolina House Speaker Jim Black. In addition to driving Black from office, those efforts helped spur a number of improvements to state laws governing campaign finance, gifts to public officials, lobbying disclosures and many other important areas.

Now, however, corruption has reared its ugly head again and there are real questions as to whether the existing structure for enforcing state campaign finance laws can respond adequately to the challenge. As detailed in a letter Hall delivered to federal and state prosecutors earlier this month, several of North Carolina’s most important political leaders were the recipients of large and potentially illegal campaign contributions from individuals affiliated with the controversial “sweepstakes” industry in 2011 and 2012. Strangely and surprisingly, however, officials at the State Board of Elections chose not to follow up on Hall’s findings. Now Hall and his colleagues are appealing to the U.S. Attorney and Wake County District Attorney to take a second look.

Join us as Hall explains his findings, what Democracy NC is asking prosecutors to do and the overall state of political corruption in North Carolina politics today.

Click here to register

When: Tuesday, August 25, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Click here for parking info.

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

Daily Beast politics writer lampoons NC Ethics Commission’s approval of lawmaker-lobbyist sex

The national embarrassments just keep on a comin’ for North Carolina.  Political writer Olivia Nuzzi of the national website The Daily Beast is the latest to make light of how far things have sunk in the Old North State with this column entitled: “North Carolina Lobbyists Can Officially Screw Politicians Legally.”

As Nuzzi explains:

Yes, what could go wrong?

Joal H. Broun, the secretary of state’s lobbying compliance director, sent a letter to the commission on December 15 inquiring whether, um, intimacy between lobbyists and the people they are lobbying violates ethics laws. On Friday, the commission released its answer: The passionate and unwise may carry on!

The opinion, which is almost romantic if you can get past the legal jargon, essentially says that your body is a temple and sharing it with anyone else is a priceless gift—emphasis on priceless: Sex has no value, according to the commission, and so it doesn’t need to be disclosed.

“Consensual sexual relationships do not have monetary value and therefore are not reportable as gifts or ‘reportable expenditures made for lobbying’ for purposes of the lobbying law’s expenditure reporting provisions,” the commission says.

It’s difficult to read that without squinting skeptically, but consider how difficult it would be to disclose a sexual relationship as a gift. Would different acts carry different weight? Isn’t that really subjective? Things would get complicated quickly….

Click here to read the entire article.

Commentary

“Second” legislative session allows legislative leaders to evade rules on raising money from lobbyists

House Speaker Tim Moore

House Speaker Tim Moore

It’s been déjà vu all over again this week in Raleigh. Two weeks ago, right before what seemed at the time to be the one and only “first” day of the 2015 legislative session, lawmakers crammed in some last minute fundraising just hours before the session began.

The details of all this are a smidge complex. State law bars lobbyists from making contributions to candidates and their committee at any time, but of course, some folks don’t register as lobbyists until after the session commences. The law also effectively bars lobbyists from making any kind of contributions (even to party committees) once the General Assembly is in session. The bottom line though is that the law provides a real incentive for lawmakers to stick up the lobbying community right before the gavel sounds to open the session.

This week, however, just a few days later, the whole absurd spectacle was repeated. This past Tuesday night for instance, House Speaker Tim Moore hosted a “2015 Opening Day Celebration” at the City Club in downtown Raleigh to shake down the lobbying corps yet again.

So, “how’d he pull that off?” you ask. “Aren’t such fundraisers effectively barred once the session gets underway?”

Well, it turns out that when legislators went home on January 14, they technically “adjourned” — even though Moore has been busy appointing committee chairs and all sorts of legislative activity has been taking place. This fiction of “adjournment” allowed lawmakers to claim that they were not in session so that they could go back to collecting cash from people and groups with business before the G.A.

The House GOP fundraiser announcement even contained the following not-so-subtle reminder in fine print at the bottom: “Lobbyists registered in North Carolina are not prohibited from contributing to the NC Republican House Caucus.”

Indeed, as it turned out, Tuesday was a fine day for lobbyists to pony up. Just hours before the City Club soirée, Read more