Politics & Government

The Source: More money? Maybe, maybe not

More money? Maybe, maybe not

On the day Patrick Cannon checked into prison, two city leaders decried the destructive role money can play, even in local politics.

Dennis Rash and the Rev. Ricky Woods said the demise of Cannon, the city’s first mayor jailed for corruption, should set off a siren in a city still sifting through the wreckage of its reputation for clean government.

“By no means am I giving the former mayor a pass for inappropriate behavior, but it should get us to a larger conversation in our community on the role of big money and influence in our politics,” said Woods, the longtime pastor at First Baptist Church – West. “What kind of democracy do we get when we are confronted by big money at every level?”

One thing is clear: The mayor’s seat, once an aerobic exercise in ribbon-cutting, has become an important springboard to higher office. Pat McCrory is the sitting governor. Anthony Foxx is a member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, where he can pick his next North Carolina race.

Has the image of the mayor as a civic volunteer been replaced by professional politicians positioning themselves for a bigger stage? Maybe. But here’s the funny part: Starting in the near future, Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s shifting political landscape may help regulate the influence of mayoral money.

In 2009, Foxx and Republican John Lassiter combined spent more than $1 million on the mayor’s race, a record. In 2013, however, Cannon and the GOP’s Edwin Peacock raised half that much.

Next year, the city might not even have a two-party mayor’s race. A crowded Democratic field and a city electorate that has swung hard toward the Democratic Party in the past 20 years makes it more likely that Charlotte’s next top leader will be selected in the Democratic primary.

Should the two-party system in the city continue to weaken, the leading candidates won’t have to raise the extra money to carry them through the general election.

That won’t rule out the threat of mayoral corruption, of course. But if it occurs, odds are it will be like Cannon’s – more about the politician than the politics. Michael Gordon

Congressman says Obama action impeachable

At least one North Carolina Republican says Congress should consider impeachment after Obama’s executive order on immigration.

“To me, a constitutional question means that we have the option of impeachment,” U.S. Rep. Walter Jones Jr. told Breitbart News, calling impeachment the best option.

“We have a Constitution, and I am very disappointed from year to year that we do not follow the Constitution,” he added. “To me, if you think the president has violated his trust of office, meaning with the American people, then follow the Constitution.”

In 2008, Jones supported a move by Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich to impeach President George W. Bush over Iraq. Jim Morrill

Balmer moves back up

This month’s Republican electoral wave lifted a former North Carolina legislator to new power in the Colorado Senate.

Sen. David Balmer became part of the GOP’s first majority in a decade when Colorado Republicans took the state Senate by a single vote.

Balmer, named chairman of the Business, Labor and Technology Committee, was elected to the Senate in 2012 after six years in the Colorado House.

The Denver Post said Balmer has focused on consumer-oriented legislation, including the retail-marijuana industry.

Balmer was once a fast riser in North Carolina politics, elected to the state House in 1988 at age 26 and minority leader four years later. The Charlotte Republican ran for Congress in 1994 and forced a primary runoff with Sue Myrick.

But embellishments on his résumé – playing varsity soccer in college, graduating in the top of his law school class and clerking on the state Supreme Court – cost him the election. He later moved to Colorado and, in 2004, was elected to the state House. Jim Morrill

DENR wants grant records from Hagan company

A state agency has asked the company co-owned by U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s husband to answer two dozen questions related to conflict of interest and self-dealing concerns in a federal stimulus-funded project at its warehouse in Reidsville.

The project by JDC Manufacturing, co-owned by Charles “Chip” Hagan III, became campaign fodder in Sen. Hagan’s failed re-election campaign against Thom Tillis this fall.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources wrote the company on Wednesday to say that it had been looking into the grant following news media reports. Since the original program manager and the monitor of that grant no longer work for the state, DENR reviewers have questions about the approximately $250,000 grant awarded in 2010. The office that administered the federal grants was in the N.C. Commerce Department at the time, and later moved to DENR.

The total cost to upgrade heating and lighting and install solar panels was about $500,000.

The state agency wants to know what role Hagan’s son and a future son-in-law had in the project, whether the solar phase was put out to competitive bidding, and whether there were sub-grantees or sub-contractors. The company has said the project was handled legally.

DENR has given the firm until Dec. 12 to respond and provide documentation, including an accounting of all invoices and payments. Following a recent internal review of the grant, DENR Secretary John Skvarla directed his staff to obtain more information from the company. Craig Jarvis

Locke president on the move

John Hood, longtime John Locke Foundation president and Charlotte native, is moving over to head the John William Pope Foundation.

Hood said he’ll be promoting many of the same policies and programs in his new role. At the Pope Foundation, which provides grants to conservative causes and charities, Hood will succeed Art Pope, the businessman and former state budget director, who will continue to chair the organization’s board.

He’ll work with Pope’s daughter Joyce, who serves as the Pope Foundation’s vice president.

Hood will continue to work with the John Locke Foundation – the conservative think tank he helped start in 1990 – as its board chairman. The Locke Foundation has promoted its executive vice president, Kory Swanson, to fill Hood’s position as president.

“I will have just as strong an interest as I had before in advancing policies and programs – be they public or private – that maximize economic opportunity and personal freedom for all,” Hood said in a news release. Colin Campbell

Democrats apologize – more than a century late

In a move overdue by just 116 years, the N.C. Democratic Party this month formally apologized for its role in the 1898 Wilmington riot.

And it asked the Republican-led General Assembly to compensate victims.

Democratic white supremacists overthrew the city’s newly elected “fusion” government in an attack that left dozens of African-Americans dead.

“The North Carolina Democratic Party believes that true healing of our traumatized community cannot begin without compensating the descendants of the victims of the 1898 massacre,” a resolution passed by the party’s executive committee this month said.

The resolution went on to urge the General Assembly to compensate victims, though it didn’t say how that would be done more than a century later. Jim Morrill