posted on August 03, 2006 09:26
Former Republican State Representative Michael Decker says three years ago, at the IHOP in Salisbury, he made this deal with a Democratic legislator: Decker switched parties and voted for Democrat Jim Black for Speaker of the House – in return he got $50,000 and a job for his son.
Later, Decker also says, he got an envelope containing $38,000 in checks made out to his campaign and $12,000 in cash and his son got a $46,000-a-year job.
Who was the ‘unidentified Democratic legislator’ Mike Decker says he sold his vote to at IHOP?
The newspapers are making a pretty good case it was Jim Black.
Decker just pled guilty to corruption charges in federal court. He faces a five-year sentence and a $250,000 fine. The day his guilty plea was announced, a lot of Democrats in Raleigh took a big gulp and asked themselves something like this, Well, if it was illegal for Mike Decker to take $50,000 in exchange for his vote for Jim Black – does that mean whoever gave him that $50,000 broke the law too?
During the Watergate scandal, first, President Nixon dissembled, then he got caught, then the roof fell in on Republican candidates in the 1974 elections. When the smoke cleared there were a mere handful of Republicans left standing in the State House and there was only one Republican legislator left standing in the State Senate.
House Democrats have had their chance to clean up the scandals in Raleigh but they squandered it.
Last Spring, when the ‘pay to play’ scandals hit the front pages of the newspapers, House Democrats chose to turn a blind eye. Instead of cleaning up the mess, the House Democratic Caucus said everything was fine and gave Black an overwhelming vote of confidence to keep on keeping on. They must be having second thoughts now.
Since last spring, the House Democrats have been like ostriches, telling themselves the ‘pay to play’ scandals wouldn’t amount to much, that they’d blow over and go away before the election. With their campaign war chest bulging, and dwarfing anything the Republicans can spend this fall, they thought that after the storm passed they’d have more than enough money to overcome any little bit of fallout left before the election.
So, instead of real ethics reform House Democrats passed a fig-leaf bill with a high-sounding name, figuring it would give them all the political cover they needed. After Decker’s guilty plea, their fig-leaf is in tatters.
More often than not politicians deftly skirt past political quagmires like ‘pay to play’ with a clever turn of phrase or sleight-of-hand. But one of the characteristics of politics is sometimes the unexpected happens and they get caught.
The Democrats in the House are now caught. This isn’t a little scandal. It’s not going to blow over. It just exploded. And it looks like it may explode again.
This election, at least nationally, has been looking like a shoo-in for Democrats. But, by refusing to do one thing to stop the corruption in the State Legislature, the Democrats in the North Carolina House have handed Republicans a way to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
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