LaRoque's challenges

July 20, 2012 

State Rep. Stephen LaRoque, a Kinston Republican, is soon to be a former state representative, as he lost his re-election bid in the Republican primary. But if he likes the spotlight, no problem. Thanks to federal charges of theft and money-laundering, he’ll be in the public eye for a while yet.

Basically, LaRoque ran an enterprise that got federal money which it loaned to struggling businesses. But a liberal watchdog group, N.C. Policy Watch, last summer began online reporting that questioned how LaRoque managed two nonprofit entities and a for-profit firm putting federal loans into rural areas where businesses were having a hard time.

LaRoque scoffed at those reports. He won’t find the federal government so easy to scoff at. An indictment raises serious issues for the legislator, who was appointed as chairman of the House Rules Committee after his election in 2010 by House Speaker Thom Tillis. The speaker now says that LaRoque should quit.

Federal officials say LaRoque didn’t report all of his income to the IRS, and note that his 2009 compensation from his relending business was $317,800. Federal charges also say LaRoque gave breaks on interest rates to some of his associates, and on a loan he made to his future wife’s carpeting company in 2007. A couple of LaRoque’s state House colleagues received loans as well. The indictment says LaRoque was illegally “stockpiling cash” by applying for additional federal funds before he’d loaned the money he’d already been allotted.

LaRoque clearly intends to mount a vigorous legal defense, and that’s something to which he’s certainly entitled, along with the presumption of innocence.

But perhaps it’s just as well he won’t be back in the state House. It appears he’s going to be plenty busy.

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