Let the Sun Shine In On Mike Easley
Further Investigations Necessary to Find Truth
Raleigh – Today the State Board of Elections found significant violations of campaign financing laws and ordered former Democratic Gov. Mike Easley’s campaign committee to pay $100,000 in fines and civil penalties. The Board also required the State Democratic Party to disgorge $9,000 in unlawful contributions. These actions followed lengthy testimony before the Board this week by former Governor Mike Easley and a number of his associates and Democratic Party officials. The Board referred Gov. Easley’s case to the Wake County District Attorney for review of possible criminal charges.
Contradictions in testimony and significant memory lapses of key witnesses give us good reason to demand careful scrutiny of possible corruption at the highest levels of state government. They raise serious questions that demand complete and truthful answers. While there is a presumption of innocence in criminal court, there are clearly enough questions that investigations must continue in a thorough and swift manner. The public must have no doubt that law enforcement will expeditiously ferret out the truth and hold accountable those guilty of wrongdoing.
The State Board also recommended legislation by the NC General Assembly making a candidate personally responsible to pay any fines and civil penalties if the campaign committee is financially unable to do so. The Legislature should carefully consider this proposal during the 2010 session. I would support it.
Federal authorities are also reviewing a number of unlawful campaign activities as well as odd real estate deals and influence peddling. To ensure the integrity of our state government, these questions must be satisfactorily answered without delay. These serious allegations must not be allowed to linger.
(The following is my statement of February 27, 2007, concerning the misdeeds of former Speaker Jim Black and some suggestions made to correct these problems.)
Rep. Paul Stam
February 27, 2007
Almost 800 years ago King John agreed to certain demands made by his countrymen. He did this in order to maintain his crown and probably his life. He promised that henceforth justice and right would not be sold. We call these promises (the) Magna Carta (1215 A.D.) and they were reiterated in the King’s Coronation Oath thereafter.
Since last week’s news conference former Speaker of the House, Jim Black, pled guilty in state court to obstructing justice and purchasing his office in 2003 for cash. Previously he pled guilty in Federal Court for selling legislation out of his office for cash.
There are certain things that should be said about this and certain things that should be done immediately. Three things should be said:
1. Everybody does not do it. To allow this slur to be repeated is an accusation of the worst kind against the vast majority of the members of both Houses.
2. Federal and State law enforcement offices have acted with diligence and professionalism. This was made immeasurably more difficult by the years of denial by the former Speaker. I would hope that the Chief Executive of this State and all the leaders would expect every member of the General Assembly and every member of the Executive Branch to extend to these duly constituted law enforcement authorities candid, complete and prompt cooperation, including telling the truth the first time they are asked.
3. There is no “greater good” that excuses this kind of behavior. To paraphrase Sir Thomas Moore, “When Representatives forsake their private conscience for the sake of the public good they lead their country on a short road to chaos.”
What to do immediately? First, along with Senator Berger I have or will file a series of bills to take the profit out of this type of corruption. [done] First, we have each filed a bill to deny the state funded portion of pensions to those convicted of certain felonies while in office. Second, three Senators have filed a bill to repeal the law that was purchased last Session. I will shortly co-sponsor a bill to that effect on the House side – probably later this week. [done]
Third, we are at the time of year when the House rules for the Session are to be adopted. This is probably the most important reform that is necessary because it goes to the heart of why the former Speaker, Mr. Black, was willing to give money for his office and why he was able to sell legislation for cash.
Over the last 20 years there has been a gradual, yet pronounced, concentration of power in the House into fewer and fewer hands. I recall that in 1988 one of the themes of the election was the undue influence of what was then called the “Gang of 8” as to budgetary matters. That has only gotten worse. I have requested, and I hope that the democratic majority of the House will agree to, numerous changes in the rules that will diffuse power and make the House a more democratic institution. [not done] Although it is helpful, it is not enough that debate be full and fair if the very matters that are debated are predetermined. Without going through the technical jargon of dozens of rules that need to change, I will give you a couple of examples.
1. HB2213 – Kelo Bill – 88 co-sponsored last year by a majority from each party is a good illustration of how the will of the majority in the House and in the State has been subverted by the will of a single person. We could not get it to the floor because then Speaker Black, who would never give a reason for his opposition but let it be shuttled between subcommittees and committees to avoid a motion for recall. There is no effective recall motion if that power remains in power of anyone. [worse in 2009]
2. The Budget. In the House there are 8 co-chairs of Appropriations, all Democrats. Although the subcommittees of Appropriation are proportional in membership it is a little known fact that all 8 full chairs can vote on each subcommittee [changed] and, in effect, make all the major decisions for each subcommittee. [still true] When the full Appropriations Committee meets, because these 8 are added, that committee is grossly disproportional. [still true] The worst feature of the present rules is that the rules under which that committee operates allows these 8 to dictate the allocation for departments and then allows them to rule out of order any attempt to move money between departments at all. [still true] While dozens of amendments will be considered in the Appropriations Committee not a one can change the decree of the appropriation chairs as to the basic structure of the budget.