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In case you missed them over the weekend, there were at least two worth-your-time reads that raised more questions about the openness and transparency of a Governor who had promised to set new standards in those areas.

Number One is a fine essay by Ned Barnett of Raleigh’s News & Observer entitled “McCrory’s blind spot on ethics.” In it, Barnett rightfully takes the Governor to task for the yawning gap between some of his previous campaign rhetoric and the performance of his administration. Here are some excerpts:

“In his first run for governor in 2008, Pat McCrory fixed on a theme that would prove successful in his second try in 2012. He ran against what he considered the cloaked and unethical conduct of Democrats too long in power….

Now, in the third year of his first term, the words and theme of candidate McCrory have an odd resonance. There’s no evidence that Gov. McCrory has abused his powers, but there is also no evidence that he’s doing much to prevent abuses or dispel the appearance of potential abuses. This ‘reform’ governor is strangely cavalier when it comes to situations that raise ethical questions.”

After reviewing a long list a McCrory ethical lapses, Barnett puts it this way:

“McCrory says he’s getting tripped up because he has been in business rather than being exclusively a public servant. But it hardly seems a case of good-government sticklers picking on private-sector Pat. Rather, McCrory has made a living by mingling his public and private roles and now seems oblivious as to where one ends and the other begins.” (Emphasis supplied.)

Number Two is a brief AP news story in the Fayetteville Observer yesterday entitled “McCrory record seekers met with delays, demands for payments.” As the story reports: Read More

Commentary

Gov. Pat McCrory’s hometown newspaper is out with another blistering editorial directed at the man whose campaign it endorsed in 2012. Today’s subject is the Guv’s inexplicable difficulty in filling out state ethics forms. In an editorial entitled “Those baffling ethics N.C. forms,” the Charlotte Observer puts it this way:

“What is going on in Gov. Pat McCrory’s office? Why do he and his lawyers keep having such a hard time filling out ethics forms correctly?

McCrory was forced to change his state disclosure reports on Monday when it was revealed that he had failed, again, to disclose required information….

Were this the only instance of McCrory filling out ethics forms improperly, it would be worth minimal notice. But it is not. It is a pattern with the McCrory administration: Fill out the ethics form incorrectly, have the ethics commission admonish you for that, then claim that it was an innocent misinterpretation of the form.

For instance, McCrory said on his ethics form that he didn’t own any Duke Energy stock on Dec. 31, 2013, when in fact he did….

McCrory similarly failed to fully disclose on his ethics forms compensation he received from Tree.com as a company director. Again, an unclear form, the governor’s office said.

Partisans are dismissing the latest charge as a political witch hunt by a liberal group. That the complaint came from Progress NC Action does give it a political tint.

But voters should consider the facts and decide whether they are OK with error-filled ethics forms from elected officials of either party. And McCrory should do more to fulfill his campaign promise of leading a clean and transparent administration.”

As noted in this space the other day, the best solution for problems like McCrory’s most recent failure to disclose corporate-funded “scholarships” to fancy gatherings of governors would be for the state to simply bar such gifts. In the meantime, though, the least the Guv can do is tell the truth in a timely fashion.

Commentary

McCrory_budget4Governor McCrory amended his state ethics report today even as advocates at Progress NC blasted his previous failure to submit accurate reports as required by state law. In submitting the new and improved disclosures about the Guv’s trips to corporate-sponsored confabs of various governors’ associations, McCrory’s lawyer Bob Stephens — who sure seems to be having a hard time keeping up with laws that have been on the books for quite a while — stated that: “It is entirely appropriate for the RGA, NGA and SGA to pay travel expenditures for the Governor and staff to attend these meetings.”

To which, all a person who cares about our state and the integrity of its elected leaders can say is:

Why? Why is it appropriate for corporate-funded private organizations to pay to wing our public officials to swanky resorts and put them up in style?

If it is legal as Mr. Stephens contends, it’s an absurd and truck-sized gap in the state gift ban passed in the aftermath of the Jim Black scandal.

Here’s a radical concept and two-part solution that North Carolina ought to pursue to prevent such conflicts in the future:

1) Enact a law that makes it clear that when public officials are representing our state in or out of North Carolina in anything other than a partisan/election-related event, they must travel at public expense.

2) Pass an appropriation that gives officials like McCrory a travel budget to which they need to stick.

This way, a) officials can budget their time and expenses like just about everyone else and b) we won’t have to worry about our them feeling beholden to anyone other than the taxpayers.

Commentary

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