The indictment of Kevin Geddings in the lottery scandal has opened a unique window on Democratic politics in North Carolina. There are probably only two dozen Democratic consultants and strategists in North Carolina. They live in a small world. They are friends, acquaintances and rivals. A year ago, many of them were swept up in Governor Easley’s campaign to pass a lottery.
When the State Senate deadlocked, Mac McCorkle, Governor Easley’s chief political advisor, apparently decided to apply a little political strategy. Scott Anderson, another former Easley aide, arranged for the NCAE to run ads in the districts of three wavering Republican Senators. Kevin Geddings – the man who has now been indicted – made the ads. The strategy worked, two of the wavering legislators ‘took a walk’ on the key vote and the lottery passed.
At the same time, Meredith Norris, House Speaker Jim Black’s chief political aide, was also working with Geddings to pass the lottery in the House. And two other Easley aides, Dan Gerlach and Jay Reiff, Easley’s former campaign manager also knew, or had worked with, Geddings.
Here we have all these political insiders – McCorkle, Anderson, Gerlach, Norris, Geddings –working to pass a lottery. Then it passes and one of them, Geddings, is nominated to serve on the State Lottery Commission. Then he is indicted for failing to tell the Ethics Commission about $228,000 in payments he received from lottery companies.
Why did Geddings hide the payments? It appears he tried to conceal a conflict of interest that would have prevented him from serving on the Commission. To put it plainly, Commissioner Geddings may have intended to be voting on lottery contracts for companies like his client Scientific Games.
Governor Easley and House Speaker Jim Black, who appointed Geddings, both say, adamantly, they had no inkling he was a paid agent of Scientific Games.
But Geddings had a long association with lottery companies. He had been working with Scientific Games since 2002 to pass a lottery in North Carolina. He had promoted lotteries in South Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Carolina. Can it be in this small world none of his fellow political insiders knew, or suspected, of his ties to Scientific Games?
Is it likely Meredith Norris worked with Geddings, briefed State Senate Leader Tony Rand – in preparation for a lottery debate – with Geddings, and never even suspected Geddings worked for Scientific Games?
When the News and Observer asked Senator Rand about the briefing he received from Geddings, Rand said bluntly he “assumed Geddings was working for Scientific Games.” If Tony Rand put one and one together and concluded the lottery vender was paying Geddings, what about Meredith Norris? What about Governor Easley’s aides?
In fact, Mac McCorkle’s political antennae twitched when Black appointed Geddings. He told the News and Observer he did not know the full details of Geddings’ involvement with Scientific Games but, “The second I heard that Kevin had been appointed, I was adamantly opposed.”
We don’t know what, if anything, McCorkle told Easley of his concerns. McCorkle refuses to say and the Governor’s office will not comment (News and Observer, 5/20/06). Nor do we know what, if anything, Meredith Norris told Speaker Black. But as the scandal unfolds a lot may hinge on the answers to those questions.
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