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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

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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.