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It came as a surprise when Representative George Holmes landed in the News and Observer with his photograph beneath a headline, Representative Holmes Beat Deadline on Checks. After all, George Holmes has served in the State House thirty years without a hint of scandal. But, now, it seems George has succumbed to temptation. He transferred $79,000 out of his campaign account to himself, personally. That was perfectly legal. The law prohibiting legislators putting campaign contributions in their pockets didn’t take effect until October 1; Representative Holmes made the transfers in August and September.

But, even if it’s legal, it’s another – small – scandal in the State House. Technically, campaign contributions are not ‘bribes’ because they are not income to candidates. They go to campaign committees. Not into legislators’ pockets. George Holmes landed in the newspaper because he shredded that fig-leaf. Of course, you could say, Does it matter? After all, it’s illegal now. It can’t happen again. But ask yourself this question: Why didn’t legislators outlaw what Representative Holmes did when they passed their ‘Ethics Reforms’ legislation last summer? Why did they say the law would not take effect for months? The answer is so any legislator like Representative Holmes – who might succumb to the temptation of putting campaign money in his pocket – had plenty of time to do it. This is the latest chapter in the story of what passes for ‘Ethics’ in the State House.

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