Money talks? One BOG member hoped so

By the Observer editorial board

Henry Hinton talks with UNC President Margaret Spellings last year.
Henry Hinton talks with UNC President Margaret Spellings last year. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Many people suspect that the pay-to-play culture is strong in the halls of state government. That suspicion is only bolstered by people like Henry Hinton.

Hinton, a broadcast executive from Greenville, hoped the House would reappoint him to the UNC Board of Governors last week. So he sent top legislators a note.

“I would challenge you to find anyone who has worked harder than myself to get conservatives elected and keep them there,” Hinton wrote, according to the N.C. Insider news service. “In fact I have been leading an effort for a new PAC to raise $250,000 to help with the 2018 elections. We have had two organizational meetings and are planning a kickoff on April 26th with an invitation list of over 200 people.”

Well now. That’s candid. Hinton wrote mostly about comments he had made about the hiring of a chancellor at East Carolina University. But to so brazenly inject his political fundraising prowess was unusually, er, transparent.

It’s no surprise, sadly, that one’s status as a big donor might be a key criterion in selecting board members. But we must note that in overseeing a premier university system with 16 campuses and some 220,000 students, other attributes might help too. Like a vision for educational excellence.

To the House’s credit, they were not swayed by Hinton’s boasting and ended up not reappointing him to the board. Whether publicity around Hinton’s email to legislators hurt his chances, we may never know.

The House and Senate named 12 members to the board last week. They include former Sen. Bob Rucho, former Reps. Leo Daughtry and Rob Bryan, and former Republican Party chairman Tom Fetzer.

The next board is mostly white and male. Of the 28 voting members, the News & Observer’s Jane Stancill points out, 22 are men. There will be four African-Americans and one American Indian.