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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.


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One comment on “The Politics of Indictments

  1. gpearce says:

    “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.”

    Of the seven persons/situations mentioned above, only four have to do with campaign finance violations, real or imagined. Of these, one (the Tom Delay situation) is utterly bogus on its face and would not survive two minutes in an impartial court. Another (Jim Black’s situation) hasn’t reached the point of indictment, and may not ever. The lottery invesitgation may very well result in indictments, and could uncover nefarious activities involving campaign contributions (which is where Jim Black may face legal trouble), but so far is more about a crooked (would-be) lottery commissioner on the take than illegal fund-raising.

    So only one of the situations mentioned above (that of Meg Scott Phillips) speaks directly to the corrupting influence of the scramble for campaign dollars. The other scandals involve: an arguement over the veracity of a White House official’s testimony in the CIA leak case, a Congressman who stole public money and lied about it, and a former NC legislator who illegally sold police equipment overseas.

    Clearly it is not the presure to raise campaign funds that are at the root of these scandals. That’s a facile but disingenuous arguement advanced by those who want to stiffle free speach by further regulating who can pay for air time and who can’t.

    Comment by Jim Stegall — November 14, 2005 @ 4:12 pm

    it will be REAL interesting to see how wide ranging the criminal inquiry into the lottery start-up shenanigans goes……food for thought…..grounds for further research……..

    Comment by Louie — November 15, 2005 @ 10:53 am

    It’s amazing how the media plays judge and jury with people’s lives and there’s yet to be any indictments. Who holds the media accountable or are they just free to bastardize anyone they please?

    The N&O has certainly turned themselves into a tabloid over the reporting of the lottery.

    Comment by Abe — November 16, 2005 @ 8:23 pm

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