Politics & Government

TheSourceon politics

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell must consider himself a lucky man.

Federal inmate and former Charlotte mayor Patrick Cannon may be second-guessing himself.

McDonnell, convicted of trading government favors for $177,000 in loans, vacations and gifts from a Virginia businessman and friend, fought the corruption charges in court and lost. But at McDonnell’s sentencing last week, U.S. District Judge James Spencer handed down only a two-year prison sentence.

The U.S. Probation Office, whose lead Spencer normally follows, recommended 10 to 12 years. Prosecutors called for 6 1/2.

Spencer, though, described the case as tragic “from beginning to end.” Afterward, the furious federal prosecutor declined to comment. McDonnell thanked the judge for his “mercy.”

The former governor must turn himself in on Feb. 9. Maybe he’ll be sent to the minimum-security West Virginia prison where Cannon has begun serving a 44-month sentence for accepting $50,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents.

Is Cannon now wondering if he misplayed his hand?

After all, the former mayor and his defense team followed the book. They didn’t fight the charges in court and risk a far harsher punishment. Instead, they cooperated with prosecutors and accepted a plea agreement that limited Cannon’s liability for sentencing.

But they also drew U.S. District Judge Frank Whitney, a former U.S. attorney who specialized in public corruption cases and is known as a tough sentencer.

Cannon’s attorneys asked for 18 months. U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins and her staff recommended twice that. Whitney’s starting point, however, was four years. Ultimately, he cut a few months off his final sentence in deference to prosecutors.

Even so, Cannon, whose illicit gains were less than a third of McDonnell’s, received almost twice the time.

Whitney carefully walked the courtroom through the reasons behind his decision, and he was unflaggingly courteous to Cannon and his attorneys throughout.

But compared with the merciful Spencer, the Charlotte native looks like Hanging Judge Roy Bean.

Federal sentencing guidelines, which Whitney’s sentence closely followed, are designed to make sure defendants who commit similar crimes receive similar punishments. Judges, however, aren’t required to follow them.

In the end, who knows if justice has been served in the cases of a corrupted mayor and a corrupted governor.

At the very least, the disparities in prison times handed down clearly demonstrates that the men and women in the dark robes still get the final say. Michael Gordon

Ridenhour has new constituent

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour has a new constituent in his District 5.

In fact, he has a new housemate. Caroline James Ridenhour, daughter of the commissioner and wife Abby, was born at 1:41 p.m. on Dec. 29 at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center. She weighed in at 7 pounds, 11 ounces.

On the way to the hospital, Ridenhour’s accountant texted him that the couple still had three days for the baby to be born so they could claim her as a dependent on their 2014 tax returns.

“Brad, we’re on our way!” Ridenhour texted back.

Last Tuesday, before commissioners met in closed session, Abby brought Caroline to the government center to meet her father’s colleagues.

After father introduced daughter, using her full name, Republican Commissioner Bill James seemed tickled that her middle name was the same as his last name.

“That’s right, Commissioner James,” Ridenhour, a fellow Republican, said, “we wanted to name her after the great statesman of Mecklenburg County.”

During commissioner introductions before the public meeting, Republican Commissioner Jim Puckett, always ready with a quip, ended by saying: “I applaud my fiscally conservative colleague who got his daughter in time for 2014 taxes.” David Perlmutt

Remembering Heston, Charlotte and the NRA

Charlotte made a cameo appearance in last week’s “Frontline” episode on the lobbying power of the National Rifle Association.

The PBS documentary show featured clips from the 2000 NRA convention held here at which then-NRA President Charlton Heston took aim at then-Vice President Al Gore, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, for his support of tougher gun regulations.

“The NRA is baaaaack,” Heston, the late actor known for playing Moses, said. “All of this spells very serious trouble for a man named Gore.”

At the meeting, Heston also famously raised a musket over his head and intoned: “From my cold, dead hands!”

He died in 2008. Rick Rothacker

Heard about ‘two Americas’ before?

Writing last week about Massachusetts Sen. and liberal favorite Elizabeth Warren, Washington Post political columnist Chris Cilizza invoked a former North Carolina senator.

It was a decade ago that John Edwards was transforming himself from Southern moderate to progressive champion as he ramped up a second presidential campaign.

These days, Cillizza wrote, it’s Warren who has “cornered the market on progressive populism.”

“The last Democrat with such a passionately populist message,” he wrote, “was the pre-scandal John Edwards, with his talk of ‘two Americas’ and being the son of a mill worker.

“He looked like and certainly had the bank account of an insider, but with that Southern accent and working-class background, he sounded like an outsider. (His multimillion-dollar home and that haircut muddled his message a bit.)” Jim Morrill

Not happy with Boehner

Three Carolinas Republicans bucked their party’s leadership and voted against Speaker John Boehner. A fourth voted for him reluctantly.

GOP Rep. Mick Mulvaney of Indian Land in Lancaster County, S.C., had voted against Boehner in 2013 but for him this time.

“I get calls saying, ‘We’ve got to get rid of Boehner,’ ” Mulvaney told Rock Hill’s Herald. “And I say, ‘Replace him with who? Louie Gohmert?’ ”

Gohmert is a tea party congressman from Texas who got a relative handful of votes in challenging the speaker.

Among the two dozen Republicans who voted for someone besides Boehner were Reps. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina and Walter Jones and Mark Meadows of North Carolina. Jim Morrill

Politician’s Acronym Committee, or PAC

In launching a political action committee, Sen. Thom Tillis has made his first name an acronym: Together Holding Our Majority.

The Federal Elections Commission this week posted the filing that creates THOMPAC. It’s a leadership PAC that can raise money for noncampaign expenses and provide a vehicle to contribute to colleagues’ campaigns.

Most members of Congress have their own leadership PAC. GOP Sen. Richard Burr’s is called the Next Century Fund. It has taken in nearly $1 million in the past two years – much of it donated to the campaigns of other Republicans.

Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan’s, the Long Leaf Pine PAC, raised $553,000.

Tillis isn’t the only member of Congress to acronym a name.

Former Rep. Roscoe Bartlett called his Because All Responsible Taxpayers Like Every Truth Told. And Rep. Candice Miller has the Conservative American Network Delivering Increased Congressional Excellence.

It’s a good thing Tillis has a short first name. Colin Campbell, The (Raleigh) News & Observer