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Pat McCrory 2There was some confusion this week as to who was ultimately responsible for the appointment of Pope-Civitas Institute executive director Francis De Luca to the state Ethics Commission. De Luca’s own press release said the appointment was made by the Governor on the recommendation of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. At first blush, this statement seemed to conflict with the terms of the Ethics Act itself, which gives the Governor four appointments (all of which are already filled) and the General Assembly four (two each to the House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem).  

The answer appears to lie in the fact that the General Assembly is not currently in session and therefore could not, technically, make a new appointment. In such circumstances, the Ethics Act references another state statute (G.S. 120-122) which vests the authority in the Governor to make the appointment upon the recommendation of the relevant legislative officer.

The bottom line: Things are even more depressing than they originally appeared. The head of a political attack group that produces malicious attack ads is now a member of the Board of the State Ethics Commission and both the Governor and the leader of the state Senate had a hand in making it happen.

(Updated – See comment #1 below)The stories are coming so thick and fast that it’s getting harder and harder to shock caring and thinking North Carolinians with tales of laugh-out-loud malfeasance and the elevation of political operatives to positions of power and influence in North Carolina’s far-right state government.  

Francis De LucaStill, it’s fair to say that a lot of eyebrows had to have been raised in Raleigh yesterday with the appointment by state Senate Leader Phil Berger of Francis De Luca, the head of one of the state’s most aggressive conservative advocacy groups, the Pope-Civitas Institute, to, of all things, the Board of the State Ethics Commission. After all, as director of Pope-Civitas — a group funded almost exclusively by the family foundation of state Budget Director Art Pope – De Luca is paid to be a fire-breathing crusader for a very specific political agenda. What’s more, he also heads a 501(c)(4) political group — Civitas Action — that is dedicated to, among other things, producing slick (and in some cases, downright malicious) attack ads against disfavored political candidates. Click here to see some the group’s handiwork from 2010 and 2011. (To add to the irony of the whole thing, De Luca was appointed to take the place of another former Pope group employee, Les Merritt, who resigned because of a potential conflict of interest posed by his current $312,000 per year job in the McCrory administration).   

In addition to raising eyebrows, the appointment ought to raise legal questions as well. According to the State Government Ethics Act, Section 138A-7 (d)(3), Read More

Hats off to WRAL and Mark Binker, one of the station’s investigative reporters, who put together an online (and searchable!) database of statements of economic interest for the public to use.

The ethics forms, referred to as SEIs in the jargon-laden halls of state government, are required to be filed out by elected state leaders and appointments to major boards and commissions. They came about following the legislative scandals in 2005 and 2006 that culminated with the imprisonment of former Democratic House Speaker Jim Black, and are intended to let the public know what personal financial interests state leaders have.

The forms are public, but the N.C. Ethics Commission has yet to post them online to be searched easily.  Last week, I had this post mentioning that the Independent in Raleigh had requested and posted the SEIs in an article of their own.

The WRAL database takes it a few steps further, with entries of 180 state lawmakers and statewide officials included and put in easy-to-read digital form. Read More

The Independent Weekly, the alt weekly for the Triangle, gathered up all the statements of economic interest for Gov. Pat McCrory’s major administrative appointees, and posted them online for all to see.

Go here to launch your own DIY hunt.(Links to the document are on the right side of the page.)

Whether or not any of the information is juicy really is in the eye of the beholder but there are some interesting tidbits.

As the Indy pointed out, McCrory’s budget director and Republican money-man Art Pope invests in the nation’s largest oil and natural gas royalty trust in the United States, BP Prudhoe Bay Royalty Trust) while the the head of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources Susan Kluttz owns property with her husband on the exclusive Figure Eight Island and Transportation Secretary Tony Tata’s wife works for the Old Chatham Golf Club, an exclusive, invite-only golf club.

The statements of economic interest (SEIs, as they’re known to public records nerds like myself) are collected by the N.C. Ethics Commission as part of the sweeping changes following the scandals that befell the Democratic-led legislature in 2006. Read More

Harold BrubakerAs anyone who happened to glance at the front page of this past Sunday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer probably noticed, former North Carolina House Speaker and Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Brubaker has gotten through the almost meaningless six-month “cooling off period” during which former legislators are barred from lobbying their old chums. He now appears ready to make a big splash as a high-powered lobbyist.

Already, Brubaker has signed up nine separate clients for Brubaker and Associates for the 2013 legislative session that begins in earnest tomorrow. Some lobbyists represent more “principals” than this, however, so it wouldn’t be surprising if this number grew in the days to come.

Most of the nine are about who you would expect: insurance companies, doctor groups, the beer and wine lobby and, as is frequently the case for big shot “lobsters,” the requisite nonprofit client. One client that many would not have predicted, however, is this one: Read More