It is striking how much of today’s political conversation – in Raleigh and in Washington – is centered on indictments and criminal investigations. Witness:
· Nationally, Democrats hope the stench of corruption around the White House and Tom Delay will help them retake Congress next year.
· In the state, Republicans have been warning darkly for years now of indictments against Speaker Jim Black.
· Two North Carolina elected officials (both Democrats) have gone to prison – Frank Balance and Meg Scott Phipps. A third, Republican John Carrington, is to be sentenced soon.
· The North Carolina lottery has spawned a criminal inquiry by the SBI. FBI agents showed up when the Lottery Commission interviewed potential directors.
Is politics more corrupt today than ever before? I don’t know. But I do know that the pressures – and temptations – that go with raising millions upon millions of dollars for campaigns is bound to lead somebody to step over the legal line.
But am I the only one who worries that zealous and politically ambitious prosecutors – whether in Texas, Raleigh or Washington – can be just as dangerous as zealous political fundraisers?
After all, quite a few prosecutors later turn up as office-seeking politicians themselves.
All I know is this: When I was advising Governor Hunt in the 90s, he always resisted my urging that he push harder for a state lottery. Now I’m glad he did.