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Long after Watergate brought him down (40 years ago this month), Richard Nixon told David Frost: “I gave them a sword, and they stuck it in and they twisted it with relish.”
Now, Governor McCrory’s actions on coal ash don’t begin to approach Nixon’s on Watergate. But he has given his enemies a sword tipped with toxic political poison, and they will stick it in and twist it with relish.
Today’s N&O story (“McCrory misstated Duke Energy holdings, sold stock after coal-ash spill”) and McCrory’s inexplicable mishandling of the stock issue remind us of a cruel law of the political jungle: The worst wounds are self-inflicted. And this one could be deep and lasting.
First, the story renews questions about the political competence of McCrory and his team. Second, it comes just as public anger is growing over whether ratepayers will pay for the cleanup – and the very same day the legislature returns to Raleigh to again do nothing about the issue. And third, it looks like the media has concluded it didn’t give McCrory adequate scrutiny in 2012, which means that the scrutiny – and suspicion – will grow between now and 2016.
Just as Nixon could have lanced the Watergate boil early, McCrory could have turned this story around early. Here is what he should have said right after the spill in February:
“This is a serious problem, and it will require serious action. I will not let my career at Duke Energy keep me from carrying out my responsibilities to North Carolina. So I am immediately divesting myself of all my Duke stock, and I will be open, forthcoming and transparent as I deal with this matter.” He should have reported exactly how much stock he sold and how much it was worth.
Or, as a TAPster emailed today: “The bigger question in his latest mess is why he still owned Duke stock after he was sworn in as governor? That means he was a stockholder when he appointed utilities commissioners and made other decisions that impacted the company and its earnings. How can any reasonable person think that is ok?”
If he had sold the stock, McCrory could have made one thing perfectly clear (as Nixon would have said): Coal ash has been piling up for 30 years, under Democratic and Republican governors. The state approved that disposal method because it kept electric rates down and helped North Carolina bring in industry and jobs. McCrory didn’t need to be heavy-handed in making the point, because it’s a fair point and an indisputable fact. He then could be the hero who cleans up the mess.
But no.
His legal counsel twice prepared – and McCrory twice signed – ethics statements that failed to disclose the stock. McCrory’s counsel gamely takes the blame and says he misunderstood the forms. You can examine the forms and reach your own conclusion, but they clearly say you are to report all holdings over $10,000 as of December 31 of the previous year. And when the Governor signed the forms he knew what he owned and when he owned it.
Clearly, the N&O believes it was misled. The story said: “The News & Observer has sought for weeks to clarify the timing of McCrory’s sale, and McCrory’s office had said there was nothing new. On July 10, for example, (Josh) Ellis wrote in an email message that ‘the governor has complied with all disclosure requirements.’ That changed late Wednesday with the new filing and follow-up interviews with Ellis.”
Ellis, the Governor’s spokesman, didn’t help his boss’ case by trying to pass the blame beyond the counsel: “The stock was sold in response to repeated public requests via the media and to stop the constant, unfounded challenges of the governor’s character.”
Ellis struck the same chord in a statement May 1: “As public records have shown since April 15, the governor is not a shareholder of Duke Energy. This eliminates the often repeated, ridiculous and false, partisan left-wing attacks challenging the intent of our decisions and policies.”
No, it doesn’t eliminate them. It invites more. It dares the media to double down on its McCrory scrutiny. And it makes it harder for the Governor to push back. 


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One comment on “McCrory’s Coal Ash Sword

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is a very sneaky way of trying to compare McCrory to Nixon. What an absolutely ridiculous post. Not surprising, just one more absurd presentation. Yeah, yeah…I see how you’re saying McCrory is not as bad as Nixon was and so forth…but only an idiot wouldn’t see your attempt to make some kind of comparison between the two men.

    Look, it’s just really easy to make McCrory out to be some kind of trickster by selling his Duke Power stock and to reject the reason he said he did that. It’s nothing but politics on your part and with the exception of those that come here to read your radically partisan posts against anything and everything McCrory & Co. does as governor.

    You, other leftwing blogsters and many within the leftwing media sources in North Carolina began unfounded challenges of the governor’s character from day one since he took over as Governor of our state. I think he made the right choice to get rid of his stock in Duke. You? You see it as just a ploy and because you see McCrory and ALL republicans as evil, you want to make some absurd case here that it was all done to fool the public.

    Intelligent people know what you’re up to here, Gary. Others that aren’t all that sharp buy every word you’re saying.

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