Opinion

The truth wasn't one of Edwards' passions

Former Sen. John Edwards, the Tar Heel Democrat, on Friday told ABC News that, yes, he did have an affair and had lied about it during his presidential campaign.

Reportedly, he met Rielle Hunter in 2006 in a bar. He said he told his wife, Elizabeth – for whom Mr. Edwards had claimed a deep and abiding love – of the affair in 2006.

How trite. How tawdry. How hypocritical. And how ordinary. If all who'd had extramarital affairs were erased from U.S. political life, some big names would vanish, including FDR, JFK and probably Thomas Jefferson. Even Charlotte's own Republican Rep. Sue Myrick, a very public born-again Christian, had an affair with the man she later married, Ed.

Mr. Edwards had great political gifts: a razor-sharp mind, a connection with voters and a passion to draw attention to the problem of poverty. Or was that, too, just a cover story?

That's the thing about lying. When you're caught, all you've ever said turns into a mouthful of sawdust.

No sex offenders in parks? Don't count on it

Mecklenburg's county commissioners have banned sex offenders from county parks and recreation centers. That sounds like a no-brainer. But it's meaningless. Our elected officials shouldn't waste time making rules that have no actual impact.

The idea resonates: Give law enforcement a new tool to keep families safe in public parks. The reality is different. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have no plans to step up patrols to enforce the ban. Besides, how on earth would a police officer determine whether somebody ought to be detained?

Other counties that have enacted this popular ordinance report the same things.

All a ban on sex offenders in parks does is give police authority to detain almost anybody to check and see if he or she is a sex offender.

If there is a problem, that won't solve it. Vigilance and the resources for sufficient law enforcement will.

Put public's business up for sale and go to jail

What do you get if you're a state official in North Carolina and you solicit a bribe? Forty months in prison, three years' probation and a $35,000 fine. And you have to pay the FBI's cost for investigating your wrong-doings.

It doesn't sound like much for being crooked and using your public position to pad your wallet. But it's enough to land Boyce Allen Hudson, 67, who worked for the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, real jail time. Mr. Hudson pleaded guilty in May to extortion and money-laundering for offering to guarantee a clean air permit for a proposed Beaufort County ethanol company in exchange for $100,000 and a consulting contract worth $108,000.

This case is a sordid one, but eye-opening. Let the outcome be a lesson to others who would put the public's business up for sale.

Dole ditches Republican convention or vice versa?

Elizabeth Dole, North Carolina's senior U.S. senator, says she won't attend this year's Republican nominating convention in Minnesota. That's odd for a high-profile GOP star who's a former presidential candidate herself and who in past years landed prime speaking spots.

Her campaign says it's because the convention coincides with the Senate break, and Sen. Dole wants to spend that time at home in North Carolina.

Could be. But she's had a rough go in the spotlight lately. First she drew flak by trying to rename an AIDS relief bill in honor of Jesse Helms. Then she had to purge $10,000 in campaign money from indicted Sen. Ted Stevens. There's evidence in the polls that her Democratic opponent, state Sen. Kay Hagan, is gaining.

Finally, remember that she chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2006, when Democrats regained control of the Senate.

Her absence at the convention fuels speculation: Did she ditch the convention, or vice versa?

Our guess: Sen. Dole's decision to come home for the holidays is really a decision to come home for her re-election campaign. It's a way to dampen criticism about the fact she has not lived here for three decades and doesn't spend much time in the Tar Heel state.

Show me where you spend the money

It should be automatic, and now it is: Charities receiving money from the United Way of Central Carolinas must meet a set of tougher accountability standards set by the Better Business Bureau.

Good. That's another layer of protection for donors, who make sacrifices each month with the expectation their dollars will be spent wisely and efficiently.

United Way already required agencies to meet disclosure standards. But these are tougher, and include conflict of interest statements, privacy statements and examples of their fundraising letters.

This change means groups that either don't or can't come up with the information – or that don't measure up – won't get United Way dollars. That will ruffle some feathers. Yet there's nothing burdensome about upping the standards. It's simply good housekeeping.

It also comes at a good time.

The United Way allocates money to dozens of valuable groups such as Crisis Assistance Ministry, the Metrolina AIDS Project and Charlotte's Uptown Shelter. Those dollars help this community meet urgent needs that are beyond the scope of government and individual charitable efforts. Yet this year's campaign will have to work around a sagging economy and public criticism of the United Way board for the way it handled a lavish $1.2 million pay package (which included salary, bonus, expenses and retirement contributions) for the director in 2007.

Setting high standards for disclosure by agencies is a step that can reassure donors.

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