SCOTT MOONEYHAM: Root of Corruption in N.C. Goes Back to Campaign Finance Law
Several years ago, while cleaning up the backyard, I became determined to kill for once and for all the noxious Virginia creeper vines crawling up the deck and around the house..
This time, I didn't stop after pulling individual vines away from the deck and house. I didn't stop when the vine roots broke an inch or two under the ground. I kept on digging and tracing the vines to ever larger ones.
Eventually, I reached a point at which all the vines intersected, right at a corner of the property along a fence. I dug and dug until finally pulling out a root core nearly as big as a football.
At that moment, the term "root of all evil" made a lot of sense.
There's a place at which the lines of political corruption in North Carolina intersect, its own root of evil.
It's not Jim Black or Mike Easley. Human nature is human nature, and politicians have always been and will always be susceptible to temptation.
It's not some political ideology. As has been well documented in recent years, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, will bite the corruption bait.
It's the law that spawns much of the political corruption in North Carolina. It's a campaign finance law that, weak as it is, foments abuse of power.
The law in question allows the state's political parties to make unlimited contributions to candidates.
The result is a concentration of power among the state's top political leaders, as they utilize the party as a conduit to sidestep donor limits.
This gaping hole seduces politicians and big donors into believing that donor limits, that how money flows, that who gets what, don't really matter.
Once again, disclosures point to this donor limit loophole as a source of corruption.
Bob Hall of the campaign finance watchdog group Democracy North Carolina recently sent a letter to state Board of Elections noting "troubling patterns" of party contributions to Easley's campaign that coincided with comparable donations to the party by those close to Easley.
Hall's letter points out that on the same day that two Easley associates, former N.C. State University board chair McQueen Campbell and Kinston businessman Cameron McRae, gave in-kind contributions to the Democratic Party, the Easley campaign reported an in-kind travel expense from the party of an almost identical amount.
A similar episode, involving a different donor and matching donations, took place a few months earlier.
I suspect, one way or another, that this is the beginning of the end of this egregious loophole. The root ball is about to be dug up.
Hall has asked for a Board of Elections hearing into the matter. Elections officials will likely oblige. When they do, they should explore exactly how money moves through the party -- how it's kept, segregated and distributed.
And when that ugly truth is exposed, legislative leaders won't be able to pretend that this loophole that helps empower them is just some minor thing that doesn't mean much.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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