Ethical? Lawful? Appointment of political attack organization boss to Ethics Commission board raises questions

(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), no member of the commission may lawfully:  “Participate in or contribute to the political campaign of any covered person or any candidate for a public office as a covered person over which the Commission would have jurisdiction or authority.”

How De Luca can be responsible for producing hateful campaign attack ads and not thereby be “participating” in the political campaign of covered persons (legislators are “covered persons” under the law) is hard to fathom.

(Finally, it’s perhaps also worth noting in the “political small world” department,  that when I appeared with De Luca in a joint TV appearance two weeks ago, he was accompanied to and departed the studio in the company of former American for Prosperity NC director, Dallas Woodhouse (De Luca was also once the head of AFP-NC). Soon thereafter, Woodhouse was announced as the campaign manager for the congressional campaign of Rockingham County prosecutor Phil Berger, Jr. — the son of Senator Phil Berger (i.e. the guy that just appointed De Luca to the Ethics Commission board).

All in all, the whole thing really smells. Perhaps someone should report it to the State Ethics Commission.

Oh wait, that’s right. Never mind. 

(Photo source: Francis De Luca’s LinkedIn page).


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