Subpoena Is 'Political,' Morgan Says
State House Speaker Pro Tem Richard Morgan says political enemies are the source of the latest issue plaguing his final days in the legislature.
Morgan was referring to the federal subpoena served on him last week. He has been summoned to testify before a federal grand jury investigating campaign finance issues.
"This whole thing is politically motivated," Morgan said Tuesday from his home at Eagle Springs.
Morgan, a Republican representative, reiterated his intention to answer truthfully all questions asked by the grand jury and to produce any documents or other materials requested.
"I don't have anything to hide," Morgan said.
Morgan said he does not blame the federal prosecutors for seeking his testimony because they are duty bound to investigate issues brought to their attention. He does not know the date when he will be called to testify.
The subpoena indicates that the jury will ask Morgan for information about S&M Brands, a small cigarette manufacturing company based in Keysville, Va., and three individuals associated with the company.
In 2004, the company contributed money to a political group formed by Morgan to help finance his re-election campaign.
Morgan voluntarily released the subpoena to the daily press earlier this week.
He said Tuesday that the action of making the subpoena public was in keeping with his legislative efforts to keep the workings of the General Assembly and lawmakers as open as possible.
"I've been on the side of disclosure and a champion of the Open Meetings law all the time," he said. "I was not duty bound to release the subpoena, but I did so anyway to the press."
The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that Steve Smith, the Raleigh attorney representing Morgan, had earlier declined to release the subpoena to the newspaper. The N&O reported that its attorneys argued that the subpoena is a public record because Morgan is a public official. Morgan apparently agreed to release the subpoena.
The subpoena also seeks information about Morgan's connections with House Speaker Jim Black, the Democrat with whom he shared speakership duties during the 2003-2004 session of the General Assembly. It also mentions interest in two former House Republicans who met with Black as part of negotiations to retain Democratic leadership in the House.
Former Rep. Michael Decker, a Forsyth County Republican, has entered a guilty plea to a federal conspiracy charge, in which he has admitted agreeing to switch his affiliation to Democrat to help Black retain his House leadership role three years ago. Decker told investigators that he accepted $50,000 in cash and campaign checks and a legislative job for his son as part of that deal.
At the time, the Republicans held a slight edge in the House, and his change of party affiliation left the House membership evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, which led to Black and Morgan serving as co-speakers.
Decker later switched back to the Republican Party but lost his next bid for reelection. Black then helped Decker to secure a temporary job in state government to ease his financial problems.
The chain of events in 2003 left Black, Decker and Morgan with a number of enemies, especially among Republicans.
The state GOP party leadership took specific aim at Morgan and made two obvious attempts to unseat him. It was successful this year when the state party provided strong support for his primary election opponent, Joe Boylan, who won by a 52-48 percent margin in May. Boylan went on to win the general election Nov. 7 over two unaffiliated opponents.
Since that time, Morgan has complained of illegal maneuvering by wealthy and influential supporters of the state GOP, which ousted him from the state executive committee for a five-year period.
Morgan fought back by filing a complaint with the State Board of Elections earlier this year. He did not win that battle but says he is considering appealing to Wake County Superior Court once the state board completes the required paper work.
Once the state board files that document, Morgan has 30 days in which to perfect an appeal.
"It would be my speculation that when my political enemies did not get what they wanted from the State Board of Elections, they started feeding things to federal prosecutors," Morgan said. "This whole thing is politically motivated."
Morgan said his political enemies are harboring such hatred that they will do just about anything to "kill me dead politically." He said those same political enemies are feeding false information to prosecutors in an effort to intimidate him into dropping any appeal of the ruling.
He vows to fight back.
"I'm not going to sit back and take it," he said. "I'm a strong person."
His complaint to the state elections board centered largely on issues relating to a political action committee that accepted contributions from companies headed by Art Pope, a wealthy Wake County businessman and former state legislator. Morgan and Pope are mortal enemies.
The charge was made that the committee was supposed to promote issues, not individual candidates, but that its promotions were worded to damage the campaigns of Morgan and his allies.
"I have strength, and if they think they're going to intimidate me into dropping that case, they're wrong," Morgan said. "I won't allow my good name to be besmirched. I worked very hard for the citizens of Moore County, and I'm very proud of my political work on their behalf.
"Throughout my legislative career I have never let anything stand between me and my concern for the people of Moore county."
Pope said Tuesday that he had no knowledge of the grand jury subpoena until he read about it in the paper.
"Regretfully, it sounds like Richard Morgan is getting paranoid and blaming his political enemies," Pope said. "Federal prosecutors have never been a tool of any politician of either political party."
Background information on the subpoena shows that in 2004 S&M made a $100,000 contribution to the Morgan campaign. That was almost two-thirds of his campaign fund at the time.
In 2003, according to the record, Morgan was instrumental in halting legislation that would have required S&M and other small cigarette manufacturers to pay a share of the settlement agreement previously reached between four major companies and attorneys general of most states.
The agreement, involving millions of dollars in payments to the state, tobacco communities and farmers, was initially made with the big companies, not the smaller manufacturers.
However, both company officials and Morgan are on the record as saying the contribution and the legislation were not related.
The subpoena asks Morgan to give information about 37 people and entities, including some representing video poker interests, an issue that affected Black. Other information is likely to be directed at issues pertaining to the state lottery and one company that applied for the contract to manage the lottery, which went into effect this year.
Black has previously come under fire for his campaign finances and his association with people connected with the video poker and lottery businesses. However, Morgan was never mentioned in any of the disclosures or allegations involving Black.
He was reached Tuesday at his Eagle Springs cattle farm, where he was involved this week in calving procedures.
Morgan said 12 cows were expecting, that 10 had produced calves, one calf died and one was yet to be delivered.
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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