Wednesday, November 25, 2009

DOT chief 'surprised' by NC Treasurer's I-485 concerns

N.C. Secretary of Transportation Gene Conti said Wednesday he was puzzled by state Treasurer Janet Cowell's statement Tuesday expressing concern about a design-build-finance program to start work on the remaining portion of I-485 around Charlotte. As reporter Mark Johnson noted, Cowell's office said the lack of a contract specifying terms and conditions of the novel financing and construction plan left the Department of State Treasurer, as spokeswoman Melissa Waller put it, "unable to determine if there are issues or concern."

Conti said in a telephone conversation that it "came as a surprise that she[Cowell] decided to go public" with her reservations. The Perdue administration, he said, had held a number of discussions with the state Department of Justice and Attorney General Roy Cooper's office as well as with Cowell's staff. While the treasurer's staff had a number of questions during those talks, Conti said, Cowell's public stance had surprised him. "I still don't understand exactly" what she meant, he said. Conti said the Perdue administration was "fully committed" to moving forward on the project and also said, "We don't see any obstacles to doing it."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

GOP keeps primaries open to unaffiliated voters

State Republican leaders wisely came to their senses over the weekend and short-circuited a plan to bar unaffiliated voters from participating in Republican primaries. My colleague Rob Christensen noted in Dome that the GOP Executive Committee rejected the proposal to narrow the Republican primary only to registered Republicans. He reported that Republican legislative caucus leaders wrote the committee that "For a Republican candidate to win an election in North Carolina, the candidate must build a coalition with unaffiliated voters. Barring unaffiliated voters from participating in Republican primaries will make building that coalition more difficult."

Polls have shown, he added, that most unaffiliated voters regard themselves as either conservative (38 percent) or moderate (37 percent) meaning they identify with ideological trains of thought but don't register in either party.

The plan to bar unaffiliated voters was pursued by some who want to make sure the Republican Party represents only true conservatives and not the kinds of moderate Republicanism that strongly conservative leaders want to root out of the party. That kind of thought led to the party's recent loss of a seat in New York, when conservatives purified a congressional race by running off one Republican candidate, only to see Democrats win the seat.

This move was baffling to me. I always thought Republicans in this state were much smarter than the Democrats when they first agreed to allow unaffiliated voters to cast ballots in the Republican primary. Democrats didn't do that for a while. I realized the Republicans were getting unaffiliated votes used to the idea of casting votes for Republicans -- an idea that at the time was still new to a lot of voters in North Carolina who had not voted Republican in previous elections. In time, Democrats also allowed unaffiliated voters to announce at polls on primary day which primary they wanted to vote in. Based on voter registration, after all, the unaffiliated category is where a lot of the voter registration growth has been.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Parkway's many fathers -- and fans

Sunday's column about the Blue Ridge Parkway and the need to boost maintenance and preserve vistas brought several responses -- including one that pointed out I should have credited Josephus Daniels rather than Jonathan Daniels as a principal player in bringing the parkway route through Western North Carolina instead of Tennessee, as a parkway study committee had recommended.
While Josephus Daniels was Ambassador to Mexico at the time, he was an influential adviser to President Roosevelt, having been close friends since the days of the Woodrow Wilson administration when Daniels was Secretary of the Navy and Roosevelt was his assistant secretary. Jonathan Daniels, Josephus' son,was also a parkway supporter. He became an adviser to Roosevelt in 1941, well after the parkway route decision had been made.

Susan Jackson Mills, executive director of the Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway, wrote:

Did you know:
·that FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s nationally known program is Save Parkway Views?
·that where land trust groups cannot secure the land that abuts the Parkway that FRIENDS has planted thousands of trees by thousands of volunteers.
·that as the celebration was kicked off in NC that FRIENDS was planting trees in Virginia on both Friday and Saturday to save Parkway views.

A Charlotte reader wrote:

I enjoyed your column on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I moved to Charlotte a few years ago and have taken a couple of trips on the Parkway (Asheville to Boone sections) including a recent one with my mother. She was from Chicago and went on a honeymoon drive on the Parkway in 1957 and had never been back till last year. She was struck by the number of trees and the lack of views with the exception of the overlooks. In your column you mentioned you were on the parkway in the 50's. Is that your memory as well that the length of the parkway was mainly tree free with vista's from every bend?
A problem with the Parkway now is that too many of the overlooks are getting overgrown with trees. (You noted this as well) I am sure we are way past cutting trees along the length of the parkway but what is the problem cutting a few trees at the overlooks? Is the problem dollars or is it environmental? (I am not talking about full scale logging just pruning a few trees in the overlooks where they are encroaching on the view.)

Another reader recalled the contributions of former U.S. Rep. Robert "Muley Bob" Doughton of Allegheny County, a farmer so popular with his constituents that he won 21 terms in the House, serving from 1911 to 1953. It was Doughton for whom Doughton Park -- the largest park and recreational area on the parkway -- is named. Doughton is also credited for having steered the Social Security Act through Congress in 1935. He was also said to be mighty tight with the taxpayers' buck. My friend Ralph Grizzle once recalled that he liked to warn his colleagues, "You can shear a sheep year after year, but you can take his hide only once."

And Joe Epley, the former Charlotte newspaperman and public relations firm executive, reported in from Tryon:

As a trustee of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, I applaud your column in Sunday’s Charlotte Observer. Thank you for making a case about the Parkway’s dilemma and critical need for adequate funding.
We in the Foundation are working diligently to help preserve and enhance the Parkway’s beauty and uniqueness. That’s why more than 25,000 cars in North Carolina support Parkway with the special Blue Ridge Parkway tag. Twenty dollars of each tag fee goes to the Foundation to benefit the Parkway.
When I was a child back in the 1940s, I remember my favorite treat was having my father drive the family up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I then took my children there as often as I could, and later, I gave my grandchildren the same thrill. It is one of America’s great treasures.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Perdue's popularity numbers improve

Gov. Bev Perdue has had a tough year in the opinion polls, with her popularity sliding about as fast as the unemployment rolls and the state budget deficit have risen. Things got so bad at one point that she shook up her communications leadership, hiring Pearse Edwards away from Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire and bringing him back to North Carolina to be her communications and policy advisor. Not long ago Perdue also made headlines when she opposed the imminent parole of inmates who had been sentenced to life in prison for violent crimes, including murder, which may have struck a positive chord with voters.

Now two different polls have shown Perdue's approval ratings have improved, at least a little. Last week, the Civitas poll found improved results. Dome reported that "43 percent of state residents approved of the job Gov. Bev Perdue was doing at the end of October, a surge of 14 points from earlier in the month." But Dome also noted that Civitas' Chris Hayes detected a difference between performance and their view of the governor: "Even if her job approval has ticked up, people still don't have a good feeling about her," he told Dome.

The Civitas poll is available at

Meanwhile, on Monday Public Policy Polling also found better results for Perdue. Analyst Tom Jensen notes:

For the first time since June Bev Perdue's approval rating is out of the 20s. 30% of North Carolinians express support for her work this month with 49% disapproving and 22% unsure.
The positive movement for Perdue is largely a result of the Democratic base warming back up to her a little bit. Where last month more voters within her party disapproved than approved of her work, now 46% give her good marks with only 32% disapproving. She continues to suffer from pretty paltry ratings with independents and Republicans though- 24 and 11% approval respectively.
Perdue has consistently received better marks in the Triangle than the rest of the state. While part of that can be attributed to the region being more Democratic the difference is so large it can't be traced to that alone. She has 41% approval here compared to 22-32% everywhere else. This could be chalked up to Perdue's being much more visible here, particularly on the tv news, and that the more people see her the more likely they are to really think she's attuned to the state's problems. Improving visibility in the rest of the state could go a long way toward bringing up Perdue's overall numbers.
There are also some indications in this month's findings that while Perdue is certainly in a difficult place, the hole is not too large to climb out of. Asked to assign her a letter grade the most common response, from 28% of respondents, was to give Perdue a 'C.' That's an indication there is a lot of ambiguity in voters' feelings toward Perdue and that while they lean toward disapproving of her right now getting their support back over the next three years is not an impossibility.
Only 35% of voters give her a D or F, suggesting they're gone forever, compared to 40% who rate Barack Obama that poorly. It is certainly true that few voters love Perdue- just 15% giving her A's as opposed to 32% who do the same for Obama- but you don't necessarily have to be loved to be reelected.
There's not much doubt if Perdue had to stand for reelection today she'd be toast. The first year has not been particularly successful in the court of public opinion. But she's not 'done for,' so long as she can learn lessons from the difficulties so far and use that experience to do things different in the future. Whether she's capable of that kind of adaptation remains to be seen.

This analysis is also available on PPP's blog:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hunt, Rand, power and paroles

Ben Niolet of the News & Observer noted in Dome the other day that Chris Hayes of the Civitas Institute had turned up an interesting factoid questioning how long Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland and the Senate's majority leader as well as rules committee chair, has contemplated taking a job on the parole commission. Rand surprised almost everyone a week ago when he announced he would step down from the Senate by year's end -- and a short while later Gov. Bev Perdue announced she would name him chairman of the NC Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission. It's a full-time job that pays $100,000.

Here's what Ben posted on Dome, followed by a recollection about Gov. Jim Hunt and how he remade the parole commission early in his first term as governor when he discovered he didn't have any immediate openings on the commission to name appointees to:

Rand's retirement plan?
How long has Sen. Tony Rand been thinking about leaving the state Senate for the state's parole board?
Civitas' Chris Hayes has dug up an interesting fact. In 2005, Rand, a Fayetteville Democrat, sponsored a bill that would have changed the structure of the Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission. Rand's bill meant to change the panel from three full-time members to one full-time member and two part-time members.
The bill passed the Senate unanimously on April 13, 2005 and was later incorporated into the 2005 budget bill to be signed into law.
I guess the question becomes, is this just a coincidence or did Rand have this all planned out years ago?
On the other hand, Rand was a powerful force in the Senate and has his name attached to an overwhelming majority of bills that were adopted.

As I've noted previously, back in 1977, when Hunt was in his first year as governor and I had just arrived in Raleigh as capital correspondent for the Greensboro Daily News, the parole commission was chaired and staffed by appointees of Republican Gov. Jim Holshouser, who had served from 1973-1977. Instead of waiting for vacancies to occur, Hunt's allies in the legislature went right to the point. They introduced and passed legislation that abolished the old parole commission and then created a new parole commission whose appointees would serve at the pleasure of the governor. It was an exercise in the wielding of quick power -- so much so that when the bill was introduced, I called then-Parole Commission Chairman Jack Scism for a comment, only to find out that neither Scism nor any of his colleagues knew the bill was coming or what it did.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Should veterans get a holiday on Veterans Day?

It's Veterans Day, and across the land the military veteran is being honored with department store sales, parades, memorial services, thoughtful editorials, wreath-laying services, grand speeches, solemn ceremonies and a holiday -- a holiday, that is, as long as you work for a government agency. Some private and non-government employers also give the day off, to be sure. But take a look around: What you'll see is what you normally see in America: Those who have jobs are working today, including millions of veterans who served stateside and around the world, in foreign conflicts and in peacetime.

The sad fact is that veterans are honored mostly with lip service. Of course, giving a veteran the day off is not the only way to properly honor a vet's service. There are many ways to honor them, and I've never heard a veteran complain publicly about this. Most of them simply do what they did in the service: they do their jobs and they move on. But a holiday for veterans as well as for their fellow Americans would more completely recognize the sacrifice and commitment of veterans and their families. A holiday for all veterans on Veterans Day, too often honored as an afterthought in a too-busy world, would show those who served under arms that their service is truly appreciated.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Perdue's pledge on I-485

Gov. Bev Perdue's announcement Monday of a new financing plan to begin construction of the last remaining portions of I-485 around Charlotte before the end of the year is an example of why folks have learned not to bet against Perdue. When she pledged back in February to start construction by the end of the year and finish it within a few years, it was obviously a risky pledge. The reason was simple: There was little if any money available, and the economy was on a long downhill slide. As Deputy DOT Secretary Susan Coward noted in a memo, "it is highly likely that all of these projects will be delayed due to lack of funding."

It reminded me of former Gov. Jim Hunt's promise back in 1996 to cut the travel time for a new Raleigh-Charlotte passenger train from nearly four hours to two hours -- by the time he left office. It was an audacious pledge, and one that would surely cause travelers to flock to the train. The state has steadily trimmed time from the train schedule over the ensuing 13 years, but it isn't close to a two-hour trip yet. It can take millions of dollars to trim a minute or so from the schedule -- and making trains run faster at the same time you're rebuilding tracks and making seven stops is incredibly difficult. Even with great steps forward, the trip now takes three hours and 12 minutes from Raleigh to Charlotte.

When I talked with Pat Simmons, head of N.C. DOT's Rail Division back in May, he said everyone had learned a lot since Hunt made that two-hour pledge.

We didn't get there," he said, "but we have made a lot of progress."
And I wrote: "I wouldn't bet against Perdue. But if the hoped-for funding doesn't come through, there is precedent for this approach: No, we didn't keep our promise, but we sure made some progress."
This deal still isn't done. As Perdue acknowledged in a meeting Monday with the Observer's editorial board, she may be on the phone next week with firms urging them to participate in the design/build/finance method of infrastructure construction that other states such as Texas have used.
It's a novel thing here in what used to be called The Good Roads State. It would require construction firms to participate in financing the project -- split into three sections -- and get paid back over 10 years. It might mean the freeway would be finished by 2015 instead of just being started by then.
But you've got to give her credit for coming up with a plan that might jump-start the I-485 completion. I wouldn't bet against her on this one, either.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A changed landscape without Powell's cartoons

Political junkies in North Carolina's eastern Piedmont woke up Thursday morning to a new reality: Dwane Powell, the News & Observer cartoonist who has interpreted state and national politics for more than three decades, caricatured blowhards and the beloved alike and left no political balloon unpunctured, has taken a voluntary buyout and retired from the newspaper.

He has been cartooning so long that few can remember a time when he wasn't drawing an exaggerated pompadour atop Jim Hunt's skull or those widespread beady eyes at the far corners of Jesse Helms' eyeglass frames. He skewered them equally -- and apparently they loved it. They'd call Powell to chat and ask for the original to hang at the office or at home.

Powell's last day was Thursday, and columnist Jim Jenkins let Hunt know that Powell was packing up. Hunt came by to bid Powell farewell, and under his arm he had one of Powell's cartoons from 1978. Hunt good-naturedly told a small assemblage that while writers can publish stories that cause politicians discomfort, it's cartoonists like Powell who can make it sting.

The framed cartoon Hunt brought showed Hunt with wild, unruly hair and his wife Carolyn sitting at the breakfast table in bathrobe and curlers as Hunt asked something like, "Have you seen my curling iron?" Hunt said that was the one cartoon over a long career that got him in serious trouble -- not in politics, but at home.

Powell's cartoon reference to Hunt's hair became a signature for his lampooning of the carefully groomed Hunt, whose hair in his younger days was dark with never a strand blowing out of place even in a stiff breeze. His hair was so ripe for fun-making that Powell often portrayed him with a comb in the Hunt mane -- a jibe that led to one of the funniest public performances ever given by a North Carolina governor.

It was at the annual Capital Press Corps skits nearly a decade ago, a must-attend event in which reporters make fun of legislators and other pols near the end of every session. Hunt was winding up his fourth term and showed up in the audience that night.

One of the skits was about a press-corp competition to do an imitation of Hunt, and at the end, then-press corps chairman Dennis Patterson asked if anyone else wanted to try out. Up rose Hunt – a surprise to everyone except Patterson, who had arranged Hunt's cameo appearance. Here’s what I wrote the day after that 1999 appearance:

When Hunt stepped to the podium, he … launched into an uproarious parody of himself that had the crowd howling. He laid it on thick, as only Jim Hunt can do, lavishing gratuitous praise on those present, proclaiming pride in all things and dropping into every other sentence the program name he talks about so much: ``SmartStart.'' It sounded like machine-gun fire: ``SmartStart.'' ``SmartStart.'' ``SmartStart.''

He brought the house down with the intensity and fervor of his declaration that he was working his head off every moment ``for the itty-bitty chirren of North Carolina.'' He delivered a hysterical reprise of a speech from years back about the early development of children's brains, with their neurons going ``snap, crackle and pop'' inside their tiny little heads.

And he topped it all off with the observation that there's one more important thing for a governor to have. Drawing out a huge comb and passing it through his graying-but-still-impressive pompadour, he drawled, ``You've got to have great hair!''

Then he paused for effect, turned to Patterson and asked if he'd gotten the part - ``or do I have to go back to my day job as an editorial writer for the The News & Observer?'' That brought the house down. Even Republicans who long complained that newspaper was Hunt's official party organ caught themselves applauding.

It's not often you can get a governor to lampoon himself, in public, with a prop first emphasized in a political cartoon decades earlier. Dwane Powell did, and those of us who looked forward every morning for more than 30 years to his latest 'toon will miss his pen and his sharply defined points.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Pay to play on Wildlife Commission?

The influential N.C. Wildlife Federation has asked Gov. Bev Perdue to investigate whether seats were sold on the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, a key state regulatory agency, for large campaign contributions during the Easley administration. The board of directors of the Wildlife Federation, which is credited with helping birth the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission more than 60 years ago, voted Monday to seek the inquiry after testimony last week before the State Board of Elections raised questions about political appointments and campaign contributions.

The federation said the request was based on testimony "that the appointment of certain commissioners to the Wildlife Resources Commission was predicated upon political donations of over $100,000." Developer Lanny Wilson told the board he had proposed a five-point plan for Gov. Easley's campaign fundraising that involved getting large contributions. Wilson told the Easley campaign that his business partner, Charlotte developer Gary Allen, wanted to retain a seat on the Wildlife Resources Commission as well as get a boat ramp permit at a development in Brunswick County. After Allen wrote one $50,000 check, he got the boat ramp permit and reappointment in 2004 to the commission. The following year, Easley also appointed Randy Allen, Gary Allen's brother, to the commission.

“If these allegations prove true,” said Tim Gestwicki, executive director of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, “we call upon Governor Perdue to immediately demand the resignations of any individuals who were appointed under such inappropriate circumstances. She should then appoint duly qualified, representative citizens to serve out any replaced terms. That’s a fair, straightforward process to restoring credibility to the current appointment process and structure of the state agency responsible for the wildlife resources that belong to all North Carolinians.”

Two N.C. judges nominated for federal appellate judgeships.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan says President Obama has nominated two North Carolina judges, including one from Charlotte, for the federal appeals court that handles cases from five southeastern states. She announced Wednesday morning that N.C. Court of Appeals Judge Jim Wynn of Cary and Mecklenburg Superior Court Judge Albert Diaz have been nominated for the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. Their nominations, which come as no surprise, are subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Wynn is a longtime member of the N.C. Court of Appeals and Diaz has handled complex business cases during his term.

If confirmed, the two would be only the seventh and eighth North Carolina judges on the 4th Circuit in its 208-year history. Currently there is only one North Carolinian on the court, Judge Allyson Duncan. The states in the 4th circuit are South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

“Today’s announcement is a victory for North Carolina,” Hagan said in a news release from her office. “For too long partisan bickering and obstructionism on both sides of the aisle have unnecessarily derailed the nominations of qualified North Carolinians.
“One of my primary objectives has been to ensure North Carolina has the representation on the court it deserves and that the nominees are the most qualified and fair-minded choices to serve the 4th Circuit states. I have been working closely with President Obama and the White House Counsel’s office to accomplish these goals and have been pushing for two additional North Carolina seats. I am thrilled that President Obama has selected two North Carolinians, and that our state is finally in a position to get fair representation on the court. Judge Wynn and Judge Diaz are both extremely qualified justices, and I will be working to ensure the confirmation process is smooth.”

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Make tax rates low, base broad, expert advises

A joint House-Senate Finance Committee began revisiting tax reform Tuesday in an effort to come to some consensus on whether North Carolina can restructure its revenue system. The committee, which may make recommendations to the 2010 short session of the General Assembly, began by listening to William Fox, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

What Fox said was interesting even though it was along the line of what many who have studied this issue for years have recommended: Broaden the sales tax base and then cut the sales tax rate as well as the income tax rate.

But Fox's recommendation focused as well on sales taxes on business: Don't do it, he said. "It's not in the best interest of the economy," he said.

Fox noted that North Carolina has "a very narrow" sales tax base that taxes only about 30 of 165 potential sales transactions, including services. (Committee co chair Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston, thought this state taxes more like 40-some kinds of sales transactions.) Fox said nationally the sales tax base is shrinking -- and in response the states are raising tax rates. That's the wrong direction to pursue, he said: "Keep your bases very broad and your rates very low, and you will have the best results."

A couple of statistics caught my eye.

Nationally, state sales taxes represent nearly 31 percent of revenue. In North Carolina, however, general sales taxes represent only 23.1 percent of state revenue. That's "very light for a southeastern state," Fox said, and shows that this state relies more on the income tax,

Over the past three decades, the sales tax base as a proportion of personal income has dropped from about 53 percent in 1979 to about 38 percent now. Among the reasons for this decline are the state's decision to drop the state sales tax on food, to have an annual sales tax holiday just before the start of school, and the state's narrow use of services.

The sales tax holiday is popular, but makes little sense from the economy's point of view, Fox said: "Economists are nearly unanimous that it's a bad idea; Politicians are nearly in agreement that it's a good idea."

Some personal consumption expenditures have changed greatly over three decades. In 1979, we spent 20.3 percent of income for food and beverage but only 13.7 percent in 2007. On the other hand, we spent 47.4 percent of income on services in 1979, but by 2007 that was up to 59.7 percent. One reason: health care is a part of the services sector.

North Carolina loses perhaps as much as $300 million in sales tax revenue from e-commerce sales, Fox said. That estimate has risen a lot since last year, when it was computed at $212 million. But overall, most e-commerce sales are not business-to-consumer transactions. They are business-to-business transactions, and while the states should tax e-commerce consumer transactions, they should leave business-to-business transactions out of the revenue mix, Fox said.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Hall: Dems were not 'cleared'

Hall: Dems were not 'exonerated'

Bob Hall, the director of the nonprofit organization Democracy North Carolina, a watchdog over government in general and elections in particular, is one of the reasons the State Board of Elections held a series of hearings last week that wound up with the board penalizing former Gov. Mike Easley's campaign $100,000 (a $60,000 forfeiture for air flights that were not reported and a $40,000 fine for the cost of the board's investigation) and sending evidence it received to the Wake District Attorney's office to determine whether criminal charges should be pursued. Hall had filed a complaint with the board arguing that a review of campaign finance disclosure reports showed evidence of a plan to raise contributions beyond the legal amount from individual contributors to Easley's campaign by channeling them through the state party.

The board also ordered the State Democratic Party to forfeit $9,000 in contributions that that the Easley campaign had sought. The contributions were to be sent to the party and earmarked for Easley's use, according to testimony. The State Democratic Party took note of the fact that the State Board of Elections did not single out the party for any wrongdoing, and said that amounted to the board's exoneration of the party.

Not so fast, says Hall. In a Saturday afternoon e-mail to reporters and editors at the News & Observer and the Observer, Hall said the evidence made it clear there was "sufficient evidence" to show that the scheme worked as planned -- and that the Easley committee, two contributors and the party had violated state law. He also took issue Monday with a line in an Observer editorial that said the board did not find the Democratic Party at fault.

Here’s what he said Saturday:
I don’t think it’s right to say the State Board of Elections cleared the Democratic Party of all wrongdoing. The unanimous vote to order the Party to forfeit $9,000 resulted from concluding that there was sufficient evidence to show that donations had been solicited for Easley’s benefit, made payable to the Party, and used to pay expenses for the Easley campaign – i.e., that the donor, Easley Committee, and Democratic Party were all involved in a type of earmarking that violates NCGS 163-278.14(a): “No individual, political committee, or other entity shall make any contribution anonymously or in the name of another. No candidate, political committee, referendum committee, political party, or treasurer shall knowingly accept any contribution made by any individual or person in the name of another individual or person or made anonymously.”

The statute of limitations has expired on misdemeanor charges, but not on a civil penalty. The Board decided that it had evidence regarding the donations from Lanny Wilson and Nick Garrett, but testimony did not support charges involving other donations. The penalty could not have been assessed unless there was evidence the Party participated in the earmarking scheme for the Wilson and Garrett donations. I’m not asking you to write more about all this, except that in your Correction section, I think it would be good to say that beyond two cases of illegal earmarking involving the Wilson and Garrett donations, the Party was cleared of any further wrongdoing. That way, the clarification will appear when somebody retrieves the original story some months from now. What do you say?

BTW, here’s how Fayetteville Observer reports it: “The board ordered the state Democratic Party to forfeit $9,000 in campaign funds for two donations that were solicited by Easley's campaign committee. Easley supporters Nick Garrett and Lanny Wilson, both of Wilmington, testified that they gave the Democratic Party donations above the $4,000 individual campaign limit with the understanding that the money would be returned to Easley's committee. The board ruled that the party violated campaign finance laws because a $4,000 check from Garrett and a $5,000 check from Wilson had been earmarked for the Easley committee.”

And here’s what he said Monday:

Maybe quoting the Board’s adopted motion itself will be helpful, which I have below. I see CO’s weekend editorial also says “the board did not find the party at fault,” which I’m sure delights party’s spinners. Maybe a correction that will ride with that editorial into Google-land would be appropriate. Illegal earmarking includes the party spending the money for the earmarked candidate.

Leake motion, unanimously adopted, about the 2 cases of earmarking ended with him saying “. . . the sum of $9,000 and, as there has not been sufficient evidence shown of any OTHER violations of North Carolina law on the part of the North Carolina Democratic Party, that the remainder of the complaint as to that entity be dismissed.”
See 1:38 into video of his motion at: