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A price to pay for political dishonesty

“Rational people do irrational things,” said Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens on Wednesday as three of former N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue’s supporters pleaded guilty in connection to a long-running probe of Perdue’s 2008 campaign finances. “They seem to take leave of their senses during political campaigns,” he said.

They do. Political operatives and supporters should take note of what happened to Trawick “Buzzy” Stubbs Jr., former state magistrate Robert Caldwell and Morganton fast-food restaurant owner Charles Michael Fulenwider as a result. Diligence and honesty should be campaign fundraising mantras. Those who don’t follow those bywords could find themselves where these three did, in court facing criminal charges.

Stubbs and Caldwell were accused of hiding the source of money used for Perdue’s plane flights in 2007 and 2008 while she was a candidate for governor. Stubbs was fined $5,000 and Caldwell $500. Fulenwider was charged with funneling money to a Chapel Hill financial firm to help pay a Perdue fundraiser’s salary. He was fined $5,000.

All three pleaded to misdemeanor charges of obstruction of justice.

Stephens noted that the three were likely caught up in schemes initiated by Peter Reichard, Perdue’s chief finance officer. He earlier pleaded to obstruction and got a suspended sentence and a $25,000 fine.

In that respect, Stubbs, Caldwell and Fulenwider may have been mostly bystanders, but they’ve learned a valuable lesson. In politics, know who you’re getting in bed with – because there’s a price to pay if you’re not diligent and honest during political campaigns, or even when you associate with someone who isn’t.

Another sequester failure

Sequestration was bad policy. It was based on a premise of budget cuts so awful that Republicans and Democrats would be forced to avoid them by coming up with a balanced approach to debt reduction. The lawmakers instead chose the cuts, which were blunt and painful, just not as painful to some as compromise.

Sequestration was, however, somewhat even-handed. Defense got hit. Domestic programs got hit. The pain was spread in a way that legislators had been unable to agree on. It had, despite all all of its flaws, a hint of fairness to it.

Leave it to Washington to remove that, too. On Friday, the U.S. House followed the U.S. Senate in passing legislation that would end furloughs, caused by sequestration, that had resulted in long delays for thousands of passengers at U.S. airports. The White House said Friday that President Obama would sign the bill.

With air passengers, including business travelers, howling at the delays, Republicans had accused the administration of implementing the furloughs to make a point instead of making cuts elsewhere in the Federal Aviation Administration budget. FAA officials said sequestration gave them no alternatives. Then, once everybody had exhausted their political points, they got down to fixing things before folks got really angry.

Too bad the same won’t be done for the children who will feel the hit of sequestration’s impact on Head Start programs, or for the jobless who will see their benefits cut. But just like the old-style budget process, in which the powerful often avoid the cuts before they happen, Congress has given in – just a little later this time. Sequestration, bad policy all along, just got a little worse.

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