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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

Pat McCrory 4Thom TillisWhat is it about the title “partner” that’s so attractive and impressive that prominent pols would go out of their way — and even stretch the truth a smidgen — to leave voters with the impression that they were in fact holders of such a moniker during their lives in the private sector?

First, it was new U.S. Senator Thom Tillis who went out of his way to make sure everyone knew that he was a “partner” at the corporate giants PriceWaterhouseCoopers and IBM before becoming a politician. As WRAL’s Mark Binker reported last year, this claim may have been sort of kind of technically true, but was also a bit of a stretch once Tillis landed at IBM.

Now the pol whose previous claims of “partner” status are in question is Gov. Pat McCrory. As the editorial page of the Charlotte Observer notes this morning in an op-ed entitled “McCrory vs. the truth — again”:

“Was Pat McCrory fibbing then, or is he fibbing now?

For years, McCrory was declared a partner in his brother’s firm. But on state ethics forms, the governor claimed he was merely a consultant, not a partner. There’s a big difference. Read More

News

Just released…

Progress NC Action files formal ethics complaint against Gov. Pat McCrory
Gov. McCrory has shown a clear pattern of deceptive omissions of income, stock ownership and even simple membership and affiliation with private corporate interests. With these omissions, McCrory has hidden clear conflicts of interest from the public. The State Ethics Commission should investigate.

RALEIGH – Progress North Carolina Action today filed a formal ethics complaint with the State Ethics Commission against Gov. Pat McCrory, detailing the governor’s clear pattern of deceptive omissions of income, stock ownership, and conflicts of interest between his private financial ties and his public duties as governor.

As numerous press reports have shown, Gov. McCrory has omitted key financial information from his Statements of Economic Interest in several places:

1. McCrory initially failed to accurately disclose ownership of more than $10,000 in Duke Energy Stock on his 2008 and 2014 Statement of Economic Interest (SEI).
2. McCrory failed to disclose more than $185,000 of income from dividends and director fees from Tree.com on his 2014 SEI.
3. McCrory failed to even disclose membership on the board of directors of Tree.com on his 2013 SEI. Tree.com’s mortgage business is regulated by the state.

The 50-page ethics complaint also details other clear discrepancies between public documents of other private firms and McCrory’s ethics disclosure forms. Read More

Commentary
Image: Twitter

Image: Twitter

Looking for something about North Carolina of which to be at least semi-proud this morning? Well, here’s something in addition to the recent performance of the Carolina Panthers: at least our ethics laws for elected officials aren’t quite as absurdly toothless as New Jersey’s.

If you’re wondering why this fact as come to light in recent days, check out the story percolating through the news and sports pages about the embarrassingly troubled Governor of the Garden State, Chris “Salmon Sweater” Christie and his bizarre, make-you-cringe-and turn-away-in embarrassment bro-mance with Texas oilman and Dallas Cowboys football team owner, Jerry Jones.

You see, Christie, the Governor of a state with two of its own NFL teams, is for some strange and probably Freudian reason, a fan of the Cowboys and has been accepting free plane rides and tickets to Jones’ luxury box for himself and his family to root on the ‘Boys at big games. (In case you missed it, click here to check out Christie’s embarrassing celebratory performance on video this past Sunday).

So, you ask, how does a public official get away with accepting such expensive gifts from a rich fat cat who actually does business with New Jersey (Jones owns a company that just won a big, fat New York-New Jersey Port Authority contract)? Well, it turns out that there is a Texas-sized exemption in New Jersey’s ethics law that allows such gift to pols from “personal friends.”

We’re not making this up. And frankly, there would probably be a similarly vast exemption in North Carolina law were it not for the state’s brief embrace of semi-serious ethics reform in the aftermath of the Jim Black bribery scandal.

Under our laws, Read More

Commentary

McCrory-APThe controversy surrounding Governor Pat McCrory’s acceptance of more than $170,000 from a mortgage company with a checkered past after he took office last year may or may not turn into a legal/ethics problem for the Governor. Regardless of where this whole thing leads, however, there are at least two preliminary takeaways from the affair — neither of them very flattering to the Guv.

Number One is, to paraphrase the Bard, “the Governor dost protest too much, methinks.” McCrory desperately needs some P.R. help — preferably in the form of a smart aide who can tell him when he’s screwing up and needs to be quiet. That the Guv and his team produced a massive, 34 page rebuttal to the AP story about his questionable acceptance of a huge payout from a mortgage broker after he took office in almost a matter of hours was a ridiculous case of overreaction — especially since it never really refuted any of the story very effectively. (This from an administration that’s notorious for taking months — if not more — too fulfill public records requests.) For confirmation of this, check out yesterday’s blog post by veteran arch-conservative pol, Carter Wrenn (in which Wrenn also derided McCrory’s attack on Leslie Stahl of CBS News in the aftermath of Duke coal ash interview). As Wrenn notes:

“Now the AP story said the Governor’s stock bonus was unusual and raised red flags but about the worse fact in the story was the Governor had been paid $185,000 by Lending Tree, an online loan company that’s a cut above a pay day lender and got fined $3 million by South Carolina for misleading consumers. The AP didn’t say the Governor had done anything illegal. Or that he’d done anything unethical (as Governor ) to help Lending Tree.

So here’s an odd fact: While the AP story wasn’t exactly flattering it didn’t amount to much until the Governor stood up and did something I haven’t seen in 40 years: He announced, I’m not a crook.”

Number Two is that, regardless of the ultimate outcome, the whole thing still stinks. Read More