Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Black: Decker wanted legislative IOUs

In many ways the sentencing of former House Speaker Jim Black Tuesday in Wake Superior Court was a seminar in practical politics. If the stories told by Jim Black are accurate, you can throw away the tidy political theories you learned back in Poli Sci 31 and get used to the seamy side of N.C. politics.
Black didn’t expect to be called to testify, and when he got on the stand he mumbled a lot and simply couldn’t remember details about a $500,000 check that came his way from lobbyist Don Beason in 2000.
But he seemed to have no trouble remembering details of political deals he spoke with other legislators about in 1997 – when he was hoping to upset then-Republican Speaker Harold Brubaker and was courting a few GOP votes to pull off an upset.
Black said he thought he had the votes of Republican Reps. Jim Gulley of Matthews, Steve Wood of Guilford and Robert Brawley of Mooresville. He testified that Rep. Michael Decker came to him before the 1997 vote for speaker and offered to support him in exchange for several things. Decker wanted a commitment to pass two statewide bills and two local bills, and “something up front.” As part of the deal, Black said, Decker also wanted a signed commitment from Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight and Gov. Jim Hunt, both Democrats.
A lot of folks found that request -- if Black was telling the truth -- to be perfectly ludicrous. Number one, it violates an old political warning not to put on paper anything you don’t want to see in print in tomorrow’s newspaper.
And second, it would have required non-members of the House – a senator and governor -- to make a deal with perhaps the most out-of-touch, off-the-wall Republican in the legislature. Mind you: Michael Decker was never regarded as a capable legislator who could get things done, like former Republican Rep. Ed McMahan or former Sen. Bob Ruccho, both of Charlotte. He was regarded as an ideologue somewhere on the fringe.
Besides, Black said, he thought Decker might be wearing a wire and said he told Decker he was being unethical. Too bad Black didn’t have those same standards in 2003 when he made a deal with Decker for his vote. Who knows – Black might not have remained speaker, but he might have retained his freedom instead of being on his way to the federal slammer.

17 comments:

DMS said...

I well remember the day. I had voted Republican and was hopeful that the slim majority in the House could get a chance to have some impact on the redisticting. I live in the 8th Congressional District and was concerned that the Democrats would irrationally chop and slice my congressional district. When I heard of Decker's switch to the Democratic Party I was stunned and immediately suspected that there was a fly in the ointment. You label Decker correctly as "out of touch." The most out of touch move I remember was in the next election cycle when Decker jumped back over to the Republican Party to run in their primary in his heavily Republican district. I remembering thinking, "Can he be serious?" He was - but his constituents were more serious and he lost the primary. Politics. Who can imagine what will happen next?

Anonymous said...

I think nothing illustrates more clearly Black's total lack or cooperation with the government more than his testimony yesterday. He used the opportunity to attack the reputations of people that had crossed him over the past 10 years; but developed a powerful case of selective amnesia regarding his crimes.

It became very clear that the crooked folks that are in charge in Raleigh have taken a vow of silence in an attempt to forestall any further erosion of their power.

That Black would be willing to stay silent in the face of 5 years in prison and that he and Beason would corroborate such a patently untrue account of the $500,000 just shows the depth and scope of the problem.

It would behoove the media to stop assuming these are more or less good people with a few flaws. Instead they should assume the Criminals are fundamentally flawed human beings at best, crooks at worst. And take the 4th estate's responsibility to shine light on the problems. Every self respecting media man should make every effort to pursue these corrupt abusers of the public trust to what ever distant dark hole the hide in and expose their malfeasance.


It became very clear that the crooked folks that are in charge in Raleigh have taken a vow of silence in an attempt to forestall any further erosion of their power.

That Black would be willing to stay silent in the face of 5 years in prison and that he and Beason would corroboarate such a patently untrue account of the $500,000 just shows the depth and scope of the problem.

It would behoove the media to stop assuming these are more or less good people with a few flaws. Instead they should assume the Criminals are fudamentally flawed human beings at best, crooks at worst. And take the 4th estate's responsibility to shine light on the problems. Every self respecting media man should make every effort to pursue these corrupt abusers of the public trust to what ever distant dark hole the hide in and expose their malfesence.

Anonymous said...

Black took money from a guy that owned strip clubs. Maybe Black could get his granddaughter to do a couple of dances around the pole.

Anonymous said...

Black was quick to rat out R's but seemed pretty tight lipped about the D's.

I think prison is to easy he should have to serve his time in stocks infront of the state capital building.

Anonymous said...

Black is an opportunistic, Democrat crook until the end. He knew when running for office the last time he would never serve his elected term as he would most likely be serving a prison term, yet ran in order to win the seat for Democrats.

Democrats, who of late have given so much to so few of late.

David McKnight said...

Raleigh is the capital city of the entire state of North Carolina. It's not just the capital of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area known to many as teh Research Triangle Park region of North Carolina.

Columnists and editorial writers for The (Raleigh) News & Observer may not like the idea that Raleigh as a capital city serves, in its state government functions at least, the people of all 100 counties of North Carolina because too many newspaper people think that government and politics should be aligned geographically with their own circulation and advertsising areas rather than the broader area of the constitutents concerned.

I always thought that citizens and journalists alike would prefer truth descriptions of the ways really are or were in government rather than streamlined accounts emphasizing one party's role over another, or one branch of government over the other.

When I listened to Dr. Black testifying despite the suspect judicial ethics of little advance notice of a pre-sentencing requirement of actual further testimony, I heard a man relating for the court his best summary and assessment of the ways were in the North Carolina Hosue of Representatives during the period in question. I heard an honest man discussing the juxtaposition of the exigencies of a busy optometry practice with the complicated dealings and negotiations which must be carried out in order for a legislative body to do its work effectively.

On finance, when will people realize that North Carolina is now one of the larger states in the Union in population, that we are the home of many Fortunate 500 corporations, that we have a multi-faceted economy undergoing many changes in technology, trade, development of personnel and product research and development?
We don't deny the major news media organizations in this country the right to gather capital and management expertise to more effectively compete in the journalism market. Some of us may not like the ide of the Wall Street Journal being sold to another ownership group, but the stockholders of The Journal had the right to sell.

No one begrudges the right of major Charlotte banks such as Bank of America and Wachovia to make multi-million dollar deals all around the world to improve their service networks to banking customers from Rockingham to Rio.

In politics, there seem few objections of the right of presidential candidates to raise $2,300 per person almost routinely at campaign fund-raising dinners across the land, or to build campaing trasuries totaling in the tens and twenty millions of dollars.

Even in politics at the state level here in North Carolina, people just expect that the major candidates for governor in 2008, whether they serve in other state government offices now or in professional or business capacities in their home communities, will have to raise substantial sums and seek to influence many important voter constituency groups in order to achieve success at the polls next year.

But at the legislative level of state government, there seems to be an expectation that members of the North Carolina General Assembly are supposed to go through each session of official business with blinders on in order to keep from inter-reacting with groups and individuals across the state on their concerns for the future of North Carolina and their particular commercial, environmetnal or education arenas of involvement.

Then, many of you seem to be saying that a person from Charlotte or Mecklenburg ceases to have the right to engage in business, professional, commercial, real estate or financial investment activity as soon as they cross the county line on their way to positions of public service in Raleigh. It is as if once a person has moved to Raleigh to work in or serve in the legislature, on a part-time salary of course amounting to only a fraction of what a Charlotte Observer editor or reporter earns every year, that he or she is then suppose to refrain from any activity involving the prudent management of their own personal and financial affairs back home.

The legislative branch of state government in Raleigh is a very difficult zone to understand as a citizen or observer, let alone to serve in as a representative or senator. Yet Jim Black of Mecklenburg provided the fair-minded and thorough-going leadership needed to move this state forward at an unprecedented rate of educational, economic and environmental success in the last two decades, with a single mis-step in dealing with a group of chiropractors who did not wish for their campaign contributions to become known to the public.

When you go back and look at what Jim Black did on a personal level for his fellow legislators and politically, for the state of North Carolina, despite the false accusations which were successfully parlayed against him, you will find at the end of this background research of politics nad people, an individual who truly emerges as having been a model citizen and one with a most impressive record of leadership and accomplishment for Mecklenburg County and North Carolina

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