SCOTT MOONEYHAM: Moore's Donors: A One-Day Story?
When a politician opens the newspaper to find an unflattering article about himself or herself, one of the first questions asked of a trusted aide is, "Is this a one-day story?"
In other words, is the bad publicity just a blip on the radar or the first of many articles that could damage a political career?
So far, damaging pieces regarding State Treasurer Richard Moore's campaign fund-raising from the investment managers that he hired to invest state pension money look a lot like that one-day story.
Yes, Moore took hits over several days, from a scathing Forbes magazine piece to others that followed in newspapers around the state. But the information -- that he has spread pension business out among large numbers of investment managers and then solicited campaign donations from them -- was largely the same.
And those headlines will almost certainly show up in campaign ads, assuming the 46-year-old with John Edwards-like looks follows through on plans to run for governor in 2008.
Still, at first glance, the storm that swirled around Moore a couple of weeks ago now looks like a quick-passing front. But the forecast may not yet be all blue skies and warm spring breezes.
The leaders of the largest state employee group, the State Employees Association of North Carolina, want to strip Moore of his power as sole authority over state pension investments, giving oversight to a board of directors.
A bill from the group's allies in the legislature is likely. Another aspect of the pension investing/campaign fund-raising story -- how Moore has spread out the state's bond business among several law firms -- also has yet to be explored in any depth.
When Moore took office, one Raleigh law firm served as bond counsel. Moore has opened up the business, and seven law firms now get a piece of the bond business.
Employees of the largest law firm -- Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice -- contributed $56,000 to Moore's campaign between 2002 and mid-2006, according to state campaign finance forms. Employees at another law firm doing bond business -- Robinson, Bradshaw and Hinson -- gave more than $25,000 during the same period.
In a recent interview, Moore told me that he welcomes a public debate about the treasurer's power as sole investor of pension funds.
He believes the system has served the state well, pointing to powerful evidence to back his claim.
Moore showed how, during his tenure, many other states have seen their state employee pension systems fall below full funding, meaning that benefits will either have to be cut or more money added to keep them solvent. North Carolina's system, though, has remained on firm footing.
Moore also defended opening up the state's bond business, saying the competition has kept fees in line. As for donations from the firm's employees, he said he doesn't view them any differently than any other donations.
Moore is clearly capable of making a good case for himself. But he may be making the case a lot.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association. Contact him at smooneyh@ ncinsider.com
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