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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

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Coal ash clean upThis morning’s Weekly Briefing tries to bring readers up to date on the sad state of North Carolina’s coal ash debate and the surprising — and potentially tragic — lack of action by state leaders to confront Duke Energy and protect the public’s well-being.

One important side story to the coal ash crisis that it does not get into, however, is the increasingly absurd saga of Gov. McCrory’s failure to report his Duke Energy holdings on required state ethics forms. Fortunately, Sunday’s Charlotte Observer editorial page took care of that issue pretty comprehensively:

“We’re not sure which is most upsetting:

• That Gov. Pat McCrory owned a substantial amount of Duke Energy stock for his first 15 months in office, including for two months after Duke’s massive coal ash spill, even though that posed an obvious conflict of interest as the utility lobbied the administration hard on all kinds of matters.

• That McCrory filed an inaccurate report with the State Ethics Commission, saying he didn’t own any Duke stock as of Dec. 31, 2013, when in fact he did. Doing so reveals either a desire to mislead or gross incompetence by him and his general counsel.

• That McCrory still doesn’t get it. The governor maintains “we haven’t broken any rules” when that is indisputably untrue. He says he is “amazed” at the questions surrounding his mistake, fully unable to comprehend that it’s a matter most North Carolinians consider newsworthy.”

Read the rest of the editorial by clicking here.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/08/16/5109117/mccrorys-mishandling-of-his-duke.html#.U_IW-8VdVAI#storylink=cpy
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(UPDATED – see the bottom of the post) Here’s a fascinating and disturbing, if not terribly surprising, sidebar to the story that has erupted in recent days around Governor McCrory’s failure to disclose his Duke Energy holdings: one of McCrory’s own appointees (Note: see the update below) to the State Ethics Commission (the group that would likely review the Governor’s behavior in the matter) appears to have made an ethically questionable public statement about the matter.

The Commission member in question is Francis DeLuca, the head of the Pope-Civitas Institute and Civitas Action — its 501 (c)(4) affiliate. Here is a tweet that appeared earlier today on DeLuca’s Twitter account:

De Luca (2)

 

 

 

You got that? One of the seven members of the government panel charged with enforcing state ethics laws appears to have already formed an opinion on the matter and be willing to share it with the public. Read More

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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.

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(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