Under the Dome

Lewis unleashes attack ad on Cunningham

April 29, 2010 

In the first attack ad of North Carolina's Democratic U.S. Senate primary, Ken Lewis knocks rival Cal Cunningham as someone who "says one thing then does another behind closed doors."

The radio ad - which as of Wednesday had yet to air - comes less than a week before the primary Tuesday. It also comes a day after a poll showed Lewis, a Chapel Hill lawyer, trailing Cunningham, a former state senator, and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.

The ad involves an effort by the N.C. Banking Commission to award bonuses to bank regulators. Commissioners discussed the bonuses last year during a conference call.

After the issue came up at a debate this month, Cunningham said he'd left the call before the subject arose. But Lewis produced a transcript that shows Cunningham, a commissioner, was on the call for at least part of the bonus discussion.

In earlier statements, Lewis has criticized Cunningham for what he calls inconsistencies. Lewis spokesman Sam Swartz said the ad will be put into the rotation of ads running mostly on black-oriented urban radio stations.

Cunningham spokeswoman Angela Guyadeen calls the ad "a desperate attempt by a candidate lagging in the polls to throw mud and distract voters from the real issues."

"[Cunningham] wasn't on the conference call when the vote on bonuses took place, and no bonuses were ever awarded," she said Wednesday.

A poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling showed 26 percent of likely voters favor Marshall, 23 percent favor Cunningham and 7 percent favor Lewis.

Interact, helpers recognized

The Mutual of America Foundation recently recognized a domestic violence program in Wake County for a national award, and three familiar names in state government circles were listed as helping make the program possible.

The foundation, which honors 10 programs out of hundreds each year, recognized the Interact Family Safety and Empowerment Center for leadership in partnerships between the public, private and social sectors. Interact is a private, nonprofit United Way agency that provides safety, support and awareness to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Adam Hartzell, the group's executive director, has been tapped as the new head of the consumer protection division in the Attorney General's Office. Key fundraisers who helped lead Interact's recent capital campaign, and also received kudos as part of the national award, included Sen. Josh Stein, a Raleigh Democrat, and Joe Stewart, lobbyist for the N.C. Chamber.

Companies settle kickback suit

Two companies have agreed to pay $2.8 million to North Carolina as part of a $112 million national settlement to resolve allegations that the companies used unlawful kickback schemes to defraud federal and state health care programs, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced Wednesday.

The companies were accused of pushing drugs onto patients in nursing homes.

The settlement arose from five whistleblower lawsuits that were consolidated in Massachusetts.

Omnicare, a Kentucky company that specializes in providing pharmacy services to long-term care facilities, and IVAX Pharmaceuticals, a Florida drug maker, were accused of conspiring to push IVAX's drugs.

The case was investigated by the Medicaid Investigations Unit in Cooper's office.

"Health care fraud rips off taxpayers and patients and drives up costs for everyone," Cooper said in a news release. "Cracking down on wasteful Medicaid spending has already paid off for North Carolina, but we need to increase the efforts even more."

By Jim Morrill of the Charlotte Observer and staff writers Rob Christensen and Mark Johnson.

ben.niolet@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4521

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