Politics & Government

The Source: Hold ’em or fold ’em

Hold ’em or fold ’em

Patrick Cannon read his cards and folded early. Bob McDonnell gambled and apparently lost big.

Both Cannon, Charlotte’s former mayor, and McDonnell, Virginia’s former governor, were arrested on federal corruption charges. The difference: Cannon agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and pleaded guilty early on. McDonnell chose to fight and take his case to trial.

If you’re scoring at home, here are the results:

Cannon has started a 44-month sentence in a low-security West Virginia prison camp. Assuming good behavior and other standard discounts, the 48-year-old Democrat may be back in Charlotte in less than two years.

McDonnell, a former rising star in the Republican Party, could be in federal custody for a much longer time. According to the Washington Post, the U.S. Probation Office has recommended a sentence for McDonnell of between 10 and 12 1/2 years. The judge in his case is not bound by those numbers, but the Post says Virginia jurists in that particular district follow the office’s recommendations more than 70 percent of the time.

McDonnell and his wife are accused of taking more than $177,000 in loans, vacations and luxury goods from a Richmond, Va., businessman. That’s more than three times the amount of bribes Cannon admitted to receiving.

But prosecutors offered McDonnell an even better deal than Cannon’s: the chance to plead guilty to a single corruption charge and receive a sentence ranging somewhere between probation and three years in prison. He turned it down. In September, the McDonnells were found guilty by a jury. He will be sentenced Jan. 6.

Under Cannon’s plea agreement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not try to include the $1.2 million kickback Cannon allegedly sought from an undercover FBI agent posing as a real estate investor. Had that been added in – and it likely would have if Cannon had taken the case to trial – the former mayor’s prison stay under federal sentencing guidelines would have been comparable to what’s being recommended for McDonnell.

Instead, Cannon and his attorneys knew what the feds were holding and got out of the game early.

Cannon still lost. McDonnell, who kept raising the stakes, lost far more. Michael Gordon

Spending bill makes odd bedfellows

The narrow approval of a $1.1 trillion spending package last week created unusual alliances in the Carolinas’ U.S. House delegations.

Democrat Alma Adams, in her first major vote since being elected last month, joined two other North Carolina Democrats and two Republicans in voting against the measure.

Eight members, including Republicans Robert Pittenger of Charlotte, Richard Hudson of Concord and Patrick McHenry of Lincoln County, supported the bill, which passed 219-206.

Joining Adams in opposition were Democrats G.K. Butterfield and Mike McIntyre, and Republicans Walter Jones and Mark Meadows.

In South Carolina, Democrat Jim Clyburn found himself on the same side as Republican Joe Wilson in voting for the bill. The rest of the delegation, including Republican Mick Mulvaneyof Indian Land, voted against it. Jim Morrill

2016 Democrats face a steep climb

Republicans bolstered their majority in the U.S. House last month. And it’s going to be hard for Democrats to change that, according to the Cook Political Report .

In its first look at the 2016 elections, Cook identified just 24 competitive seats – out of 435.

“(That’s) the lowest number in memory, thanks to how well sorted-out congressional districts have become,” wrote analyst David Wasserman.

“Of these, 18 (or 75 percent) are held by Republicans, but this is not even close to the 30 seats Democrats would need to make competitive to put the House in play. Our initial outlook is a Democratic gain of between zero and ten seats.”

Cook’s only “competitive” seat in the Carolinas was North Carolina’s 9th District, held by Republican Robert Pittenger. And it ranked that as “likely Republican.” Jim Morrill

Honoring the arts – and Charlotte dancer

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx didn’t officially walk down the red carpet at last week’s Kennedy Center Honors, but he passed the media bullpen on his way to a seat in the Opera House.

Charlotte’s former mayor had come for the whole three-hour, 38-minute show but took a special interest in Charlotte-based honoree Patricia McBride.

“I was a dance fan before I ever got into politics into Charlotte,” said Foxx, who sat on the board of the troupe run by Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and McBride when it was still called North Carolina Dance Theatre.

“An expression of art in a city like Charlotte lets us imagine things we don’t deal with in everyday life. As President Obama said earlier, quoting President Kennedy, the arts help define who we are.”

During the ceremony, Obama echoed Kennedy in a video, repeating his maxim that “I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty.” Lawrence Toppman

Colbert aims at Obama

Speaking of the Kennedy Center honors, the night was hosted by South Carolina native Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.”

“The most powerful and influential person in the world, Michelle Obama,” Colbert said on stage, looking toward the presidential box. “There she is, looking radiant, on camera next to the president, which I assume means she has no future plans to run for office.

“There are a lot of Democrats who don’t have that courage,” he added. The first couple seemed to enjoy the joke. Staff reports