For Perdue, Another Ethical Black Eye
That ethics pledge that Beverly Perdue took before becoming North Carolina's governor is beginning to sound a bit hollow.
It is embarrassing at best and disgraceful at worst that a Wake County grand jury on Monday indicted three of her top associates, charging them with felonious activities during her 2008 campaign.
It should be noted that no one has yet charged the governor herself with any wrongdoing, so that for now, at least, she escapes the kind of infamy poured in recent years on the heads of other prominent state politicians including Jim Black, Michael Decker, Meg Scott Phipps, Frank Ballance, Thomas Wright - and Perdue's immediate gubernatorial predecessor, Mike Easley.
Still, it strains credulity that she was totally in the dark about some of the shenanigans allegedly carried out by some of her inner circle.
Specifically, the indictment alleges that Peter Reichard, candidate Perdue's campaign finance director, concocted a fraudulent back-door scheme that would allow a wealthy donor to give $32,000 more than the legal limit to the campaign. That money, in turn, allegedly went to help pay the salary of Julia Leigh Sitton, a campaign worker.
As if that weren't sleazy enough, the indictment also charges Trawick Stubbs, a partner in the law firm to which Perdue's late husband belonged, with obstruction of justice. He supposedly paid for free campaign plane flights worth more than $28,000 without reporting them as contributions.
Again, it is significant, as Perdue's supporters point out, that she herself has not been formally accused of anything. But another shoe may yet drop, since federal investigators are also reportedly looking into Perdue's campaign as well. And, though Perdue herself set in motion the attempt to determine whether her campaign broke the law on reporting flights, she did so only after the probe of Easley's campaign for the same kinds of violations was heating up.
It is outrageous to see how far North Carolina has fallen from its onetime reputation for relatively clean politics. And it seems certain that more scandals of this type will emerge here and elsewhere, as the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling make themselves felt. Under that misguided decision, corporations are considered "persons," removing most limits on the amounts they can contribute to political campaigns.
With more and more pipers thus being paid, who do you think will be calling the tunes?
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