What would the Pat McCrory of 2008 think of the current culture of corruption in Raleigh?


By Chris Fitzsimon - N.C. Policy Watch



A couple of weeks before the 2008 gubernatorial election, then candidate Pat McCrory released what his campaign described as a detailed reform plan to end the “culture of corruption” he said was a major problem under the previous Democratic administrations in Raleigh.

The plan included a five-section-long executive order that he would issue if was elected and a seven-part legislative agenda. The introduction to the specific policy proposals included this promise:

“In North Carolina, ‘it’s time for a change’ is not just a campaign slogan…it’s a necessity. As governor, I will shake up state government by establishing a culture of honesty, integrity and transparency. Corruption and fraud will not be tolerated. Public service will be conducted ethically and without undue favor.”

McCrory lost the 2008 election but returned to the theme in his successful 2012 campaign, often saying he was running to end the culture of corruption in Raleigh.

Last month, the Raleigh News & Observer and Charlotte Observer reported that in 2014 Gov. McCrory called a meeting between campaign donor Graeme Keith, Sr. and administration officials to discuss Keith’s $3 million contract for prison maintenance that was set to expire at the end of the year.

A memo of the meeting prepared by McCrory’s own appointees says that McCrory opened the meeting and then turned things over to Keith who reminded state officials that he had contributed money to politicians and expected something in return.

McCrory claimed he was engaged in a side conversation and didn’t hear the remarks but most people at the meeting heard them, including McCrory’s Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry who said Keith mentioned his donations again in another meeting and a separate telephone conversation.

The news accounts cited documents, text messages and on-the-record interviews showing that McCrory’s Budget Director Lee Roberts and Chief of Staff Thomas Stith pushed hard to get Keith’s contract renewed and it was, over the objections of Perry and other top officials in his department. The FBI is now investigating.

So much for all that talk about undue favor and corruption not being tolerated.

The News & Observer also reported recently that the Highway Patrol launched a crackdown in Surry County on trucks parking on the side of the road after another prominent donor to McCrory’s campaign with a winery in the area met with the governor and complained about it.

Several media outlets reported in September that federal officials were investigating questionable personal services contracts and other administrative decisions in McCrory’s Department of Health and Human Services.

McCrory has blamed the media and partisan Democrats for the scandals, though Democrats didn’t write the memos about the political contributions or issue the sketchy personal services contracts. McCrory’s own people did that.

As for the media, candidate McCrory and his campaign frequently cited news accounts of investigations into the Democratic Administrations as evidence of the corruption he was going to eliminate. Media accounts of ethical problems in his administration are apparently different and motivated by an agenda to discredit him.

McCrory’s 2008 proposal included a call for the creation of an Office of Open Government “to assure full and prompt compliance with N.C.’s open government and public record laws and to provide training to executive agencies on accountability and transparency.”

Not only has no open government office been created, a group of media organizations (including NC Policy Watch’s parent organization, the N.C. Justice Center) has filed a lawsuit against the McCrory Administration for its failure to fulfill public record requests.

Also in candidate McCrory’s 2008 policy platform was a plan for a news conference every two weeks where McCrory would take questions from reporters. No regular news conferences have been held and McCrory has recently adopted the practice of leaving public events out of side doors to avoid answering questions from journalists who attend.

There’s plenty more worth remembering in candidate McCrory’s plan, like his pledge to veto any state budget that includes items added in private sessions and not included by the House or Senate during the regular budget process.

Virtually every budget McCrory has signed would qualify for a veto under that promise but he has signed every one of them.

Legislative leaders violated their own rules and McCrory’s pledge this year by removing a provision from the final budget that had passed both the House and Senate that would have ended Graeme Keith’s private prison contract. That came after Keith called Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

Add it all up and it turns out that contrary to McCrory’s claim otherwise seven years ago, the time for a change to clean up the culture of corruption was indeed just a campaign slogan.

That’s what the 2008 version of Pat McCrory would say. Too bad he’s still not around.

Chris Fitzsimon is the Founder and Executive Director of NC Policy Watch.

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By Chris Fitzsimon

N.C. Policy Watch

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