pay-to-play politics

Pay-to-play Pat waters his Lending Tree

mccrorynonplussed.jpg

Business as usual for the ethically-challenged Governor:

State officials say LendingTree has received a state grant of nearly $4.9 million and will more than double its presence in North Carolina’s largest city.

McCrory resigned from the board of Tree.com, LendingTree’s corporate parent, after winning the 2012 election, and then later received a six-figure payout while serving as governor. He has insisted he did nothing improper or illegal.

He can "insist" all he wants, but this makes Tammany Hall seem like a bunch of schmucks in comparison. Why is this not leading the news cycle? Here's a clue, waiting until November 9th to dig into this story is not a good idea.

McDonnell ruling could affect McCrory's legal fate

Birds of a feather do time together:

The Supreme Court indicated its interest in the case last fall by giving McDonnell, 61, a reprieve from reporting to prison while it considered whether to hear his appeal.

After the Supreme Court’s announcement Friday, McDonnell issued a statement thanking the court for accepting the case. “I am innocent of these crimes and ask the court to reverse these convictions. I maintain my profound confidence in God’s grace to sustain me and my family, and thank my friends and supporters across the country for their faithfulness over these past three years,” he said.

Pretty sure God had a few things to say about Mammon, moneychangers, and of course those thirty pieces of silver. But let's not go there. McDonnell's lawyers are approaching his defense from a few different angles, but most of it revolves around "everybody does it" reasoning. And McCrory is not just sitting in the sidelines watching. The Republican Governors Public Policy Committee, of which our Governor is an influential member, filed this amicus brief in defense of McDonnell:

McCrory's dinner ex parte with Duke Energy

Hat-tip to Mark Binker for reading the tea leaves:

But on June 1, while in the midst of pressing legal action against and issuing news releases critical of the nation's largest utility, top state officials met for a private dinner at the Executive Mansion with Duke executives, according to calendar entries and other records reviewed by WRAL News.

McCrory, his top environmental regulator, his chief of staff and his general counsel attended, as did Duke Chief Executive Lynn Good, the company's general counsel and the president of the company's North Carolina operations.

Go read the whole story. As usual, Mark takes advantage of his freedom from column space restrictions to provide an in-depth exploration of the issue, as well as providing the context necessary to fully understand the ethics. Or lack of, as in this case. And this (lack of) commenting speaks volumes, as well:

Lee Roberts utilizes "fuzzy math" to justify prison contract

The trail of evidence gets slimier by the foot:

A study submitted to the General Assembly by top prison officials had concluded that private maintenance would result in “no significant savings” for taxpayers, but State Budget Director Lee Roberts criticized that study as flawed.

Roberts said his review was different from that conducted by the governor’s office: “They don’t have the time or the ability to review technical matters.” In December, Roberts said his budget office analysis showed the state would save $1 million a year. (Keith had said the annual savings were $413,000.)

When Art Pope "retired" as Budget Director for McCrory, it was generally accepted that his replacement would be less influential in the Governor's Cabinet. I'm not so sure anymore. Not trying to "excuse" McCrory from any wrongdoings in this fiasco, but he is definitely not a "mastermind" of anything. The new Budget Director (Roberts) and the prison maintenance contractor (Keith) have one possibly big thing in common: They are both deeply involved in the murky world of land/real estate investment and development. And those transactions dwarf the mere $12,000 in campaign contributions Graeme Keith gave to McCrory. Just food for thought, as you ponder which slice of pie you might be able to squeeze in on top of all the other stuff.

McCrory's denials getting lamer every day

Miserably failing the smell test:

In a memo from that day, “The meeting began with Gov. McCrory making a few remarks and turning the meeting over to Graeme Keith. “Mr. Keith began his remarks by stating that he had been working on private prison maintenance for 10 years and during that time had given a lot of money to candidates running for public office and it was now time for him to get something in return.”

McCrory denied hearing Keith say that, according to a transcript of his interview with The N&O. McCory said, “My secretary informed me that was said probably while I was in a side conversation and I don’t know if it was said to the whole table or not, but I did not hear it.”

Riiight. You turn the meeting over to your donor buddy, and then immediately strike up a conversation with somebody else. Not bloody likely. That's one of the problems with electing somebody who doesn't see anything wrong with political patronage: They're also too stupid to avoid getting caught. And this explanation from Keith made me bark in laughter:

Tim Moore: Speaker for Cleveland County

Driving back home with a trunk full of pork:

The speaker, a lawyer from the Cleveland County town of Kings Mountain, has slipped some nice items into the state budget now under consideration. There’s the grant for water and sewer infrastructure, to go to towns under 12,000 people. Kings Mountain has 10,000.

Then there’s the $200,000 grant for the American Legion World Series, which has an annual baseball tournament in the Cleveland County seat of Shelby. The region has a long and grand history with American Legion baseball.

He's not just a lawyer "from" Cleveland County, he is the lawyer for Cleveland County. On the payroll, with an employment contract shielded from public scrutiny via personnel records confidentiality rules, or some such nonsense. Why do I say it's nonsense? Because he's currently the most powerful lawmaker in the NC House of Representatives, and we need to know if his County contract encourages him to wield undue influence in his State government position. It ain't rocket science, it's Ethics 101. And he appears to be failing miserably.

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