Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Readers fire back on 'What happened in Raleigh?'

In a Sunday column I asked readers whether they thought the 1977 gubernatorial success amendment had anything to do with the problems of late with public corruption in Raleigh, and to send me a note. A lot of them held Democrats responsible -- they were, after all, in power when most of the problems occurred. And a lot of readers hold the news media responsible for not getting onto the problems sooner. Here's a sample of what they said:

A Charlotte businessman wrote:

As someone who has adopted North Carolina as his home only a decade ago, I enjoy learning some of the history of our great state.

You raised the question as to whether the fact that our governor could serve as a second term help led to his ethical lapses. The two are mutually exclusive. While power can corrupt and the ability to continue to raise money and run for office can feed the abuse of power, the underlying bad character must first exist. To limit the term of a governor because he or she may take liberties in his or her second term is managing to the lowest common denominator.

If we elect men and women of high character, we should not have to worry about them becoming corrupt or abusing their positions. Character should not be impacted by the amount of time they serve.

In the case of Mike Easley, it wasn’t the second term that allowed him to abuse his privileges, it was the lack of accountability and transparency of his daily activities that provided cover. How many times did the schedule he released to the press appear blank. Either he was truly not doing anything or he did not want anyone to know what he was doing. Either scenario is not good. He conditioned the press and his constituents that his activities were not to be questioned. After a while, we stopped asking, unless the activities were very visible signs of poor judgment. In the end, he had to possess the character which would allow these transgressions. No one made him or his wife make bad choices. And a second term just gave him more time to exhibit bad conduct.

I am in favor of term limits. I do think that the longer someone stays in office, the more difficult it becomes to defeat them, regardless of their performance. Fresh ideas and energy in public office are also essential. We need to return to the days of the citizen legislator instead of career politicians. However, for the office of governor, which in our state is not overly powerful, two terms seems reasonable.

There is another group of elected officials who should be examined in this discussions. As a state government, we do not limit the terms of our state senators or state house members. If you need examples of representatives and senators who have considerable power and influence derived from their positions and lack of term limits, it is the leaders of the majority party in both houses. They have the ability to raise campaign funds in the $1M range where as a typical challenger in any district struggles to raise $50 - $100k. We have several examples of favoritism across this state – special project and money going to parts of the state that serve as the home of these powerful legislators.

To ensure good government in the Old North State, we should elect men and women of good character, and we should limit the terms of state legislators. It becomes difficult to be the progressive state of our past, when our ideas are stale due to the same people walking the halls of Raleigh decade after decade.

From a Charlotte reader:

I think you are probably right in this column. Long time incumbency has caused even more problems and corruption in the Congress.

I still think there is a lot more to the Mike Easley era than we know. For a Governor to be that reclusive is just bizarre.

Another reasder:

Governors' tenures? Hard to say. Like your article outlines, there are arguments both ways. With each succeeding crisis/problem of state government, such as the Easley one in which we currently find ourselves, though, reforms by a democratic system operating under rule by law are the best vehicle for carrying us through. Let's hope any resulting reforms will be more than cosmetic ones.

A reader from Lancaster, S.C. said:

The short answer to your question is, this was just Democrats doing what Democrats do - as the old saying goes, "Power tends to corrupt, absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely." - Lord Acton!!! In this particular case, the more corruptly involved of the two Easleys, Mike, seems to be more a "behind the scenes guy" in his corruption, allowing his more outwardly corrupt spouse, Mary, to speak for the family, who, rather than slink back in the shadows like Mike, she has taken the Hillary Clinton tack and simply throws it into your face (via her lawyer), a typical tack of Democrats on the whole, although Republicans hereabouts have been known to play these games too.

On the whole, I guess we can understand and almost forgive Mike Easley, because he only did what forerunners have done and will continue to do - simply rape the system behind the scenes. Ah, but Mary, she's not content to play behind the scenes, her forte is more to throw it in our faces as if to say, "I did it and what are you going to do about it?" Or, as our recently elected president has said, "I won the election, what are you going to do about it?"

In your job of observing the political scene and writing about it, you have the privilege of reporting these examples of man's ability to corrupt the system, though probably never in your experience have you had the privilege to report on a husband and wife in such a manner.

My own feeling about both state and federal politics now is that the American people have given, through their ignorance, the Democrat Party a nearly veto proof Congress and a President who is making sure he can enact all his socialist ideas before the populace gets wise. The problem may be that he is going on this "toot" in so blatant a manner that the people are already wise to his act and I suspect that the next election may make some inroads into the Republicans taking back some of this majority. Regardless of your politics, I think these few months of the Obama administration are proof of the foolishness of giving any one party absolute control. Each night when I say my prayers, I thank the Good Lord for the likes of Barrack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barney Frank!

Another reader:

I agree with all three of the articles on this (the Sunday Viewpoint) page. We do not need two term governors yet your newspaper always endorses the second term Democrat. George Bush and Bill Clinton tried to get line item veto on the budget and senate bills, but I never saw any support from your paper. Now Gail Collins complains about an addition to a federal bill. Taylor Batten suggests the symphony go to wealthy individuals and businesses to raise an endowment yet you support people who want to redistribute the wealth and cut business profits with higher taxes. Then you wonder why some people worry about the news. You reap what you sew.

Bill James wrote:

What is the difference between Easley taking a cushy bunch of trips in exchange for appointments to high paying and high impact boards and…..

Jim Black engineering the appointment of his lieutenant (Culpepper) to a Board where he gets pension credit for all those low paying years in the legislature?

He works for 15 plus years earning $15k a year and then resigns the legislature and goes on a board that pays $115k earning pension credit at about 7 times his historical pay.

Because he finishes his state term at the higher pay, he gets a retirement pension that other legislators would only dream of. Did he earn that six figure pension? Nope. Just got it because he knew the folks and got himself appointed to the board that allowed him to transfer his pension credits from the legislative pension plan to the state one that covers that board.

You all act like Easley was the exception. He is the rule. The Democrats have been crooks in NC for decades.

Then there is the ‘tax-free’ nature of the daily allowance that is paid whether or not the folks show up. Those in the majority get put on ‘year round’ boards earning a ton of supposedly non-taxable pay never included on their tax returns.

If you are in the House and ‘play ball’ with the majority you get on committees and you make a lot of money. If you don’t – no committee assignments – and no money. You get this tax-free money (about $110 a day approx) even on holidays, Saturdays and Sundays when they aren’t even there.

Heck of a system these Democrats have.


Anonymous said...

there are several high level democrackkks that need to be relieved of breathing...

NOW is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country!

Anonymous said...

all republicans are saints

Anonymous said...

One thing I don't unde

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is why no one mentions the name of Jim Hunt, who is the best example of power broking you can find. He is the poster boy for why governors have term limits - yes, two terms is a limit. I agree with the first comment I say which asks the questions about term limits for the legislature. The most glaring examples of corruption are from the legislature - I am absolutely for term limits there. But his basic point is correct and overriding - people of integrity don't go corrupt no matter long they have power. As for the Easley's, I must say I am shocked. I knew him when he was a crusading DA trying to stop the drugs, and the corruption in New Brunswick county. How far he has gone in other direction.

Anonymous said...

Term limits would eradicate corruption, but it will never happen, because politicians will never vote to end their political careers, (or prohibit nepotism or croneyism.) There is a self-preservation factor–– even with "public servants."

With this Easley investigation the NASCAR connections are curious. Former Governor Siegelman, Alabama, also a NASCAR fan had an associate named Lanny Young who was connected business-wise to some North Carolina NASCAR affiliated people. They were somehow invested in Alabama landfills.

It's interesting how the South seems to connect in so many ways.

Anonymous said...