Stephen LaRoque is leaving the state House of Representatives, but his legal troubles still ripple across the General Assembly.
LaRoque was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of money laundering and theft from a program that receives federal funds. He has operated an enterprise that loaned federal money to struggling businesses.
House Speaker Thom Tillis was under pressure to take quick action, because LaRoque, a Kinston Republican, was one of his lieutenants. LaRoque wouldnt leave after Tillis tried to nudge him out. But he abruptly resigned after Tillis said he would hold public hearings into his conduct.
Two colleagues in the legislature who received federal loans from LaRoque have also resigned, although both say it had nothing to do with LaRoque. Sen. Debbie Clary, a Republican who represented Cleveland and Rutherford counties, announced in June she would resign in November. Questions about LaRoques re-lending enterprise surfaced publicly in August, although inquiries were under way in June. Rep. Mark Hilton, a Republican from Catawba County, didnt seek re-election this year.
Clary, who is now a lobbyist, was an ally of LaRoques from the time he arrived in the General Assembly in 2002, amid a time of divisiveness between two camps of Republicans fighting for control of the caucus. In 2003, LaRoque formed Piedmont Development Co., a second nonprofit entity to make federal loans in 11 western counties. Clary was on its board of directors.
Three years later, Clary asked LaRoque whether she could get a loan to buy the building in Shelby where her marketing firm rented space, according to the indictment. LaRoque said she could but would have to resign from the board, the indictment says, which she did and obtained a $134,000 loan.
In June 2007, PDC loaned $150,000 to Hiltons property management company. Hilton told The News & Observer last year that the loan allowed him to buy more than three dozen mobile homes to expand his mobile home park. In January 2008, PDC made a $185,000 loan to the construction company that leased the land to Hilton, the indictment says.
LaRoque ran for re-election in 2008 and loaned $28,000 in two payments from his for-profit management company to his campaign committee, state elections records show. A $25,000 loan was made less than three weeks after his East Carolina Development Co. wrote a $25,000 check to his management firm. LaRoque paid a campaign consultant more than $58,000 around that time, records show.
In 2010 an investigator for the state Board of Elections began taking a closer look at the 2008 campaign loans. The investigator asked LaRoque whether his management firm received money from his nonprofit organizations, and he replied that his firm had a management contract with them, according to the indictment. He didnt disclose that his for-profit firm had received $250,000 from ECDC, the indictment says.
On Friday, N.C. Policy Watch, the advocacy group that first brought questions about LaRoques enterprise to light, reported that the state Board of Elections will revisit its investigation.
Hottest race is right here
North Carolina still has the top governors race in the country, according to the Washington Posts political blog, The Fix, which declared the race the GOPs race to lose.
(Pat) McCrory has a big cash advantage after a contested Democratic primary, $4.4 million to $700,000. Hes also leading in all recent polls of the race mostly by a significant amount, (though) an NBC/Marist College poll in late June showed him up by just two points, and on top of it all, the GOP now (has) video of Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton declining to rule out a tax increase. Expect to see it in an ad this fall.
Tainted water bill advances
Sick Marine veterans and their families continue to move closer to receiving health care for illnesses they suffered from decades of water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would help sick military families. And on Tuesday, the U.S. House is expected to vote on its version of the bill.
The bill provides health care to sick military personnel and their family members provided theyd lived or worked at least 30 days on the base from 1957 to 1987. They also must have a condition listed within the bill thats associated with exposure to these chemicals.
The House vote is expected to take place late in the afternoon under suspension of the rules, which is usually saved for non-controversial bills. The bill needs a two-thirds majority to pass.
Staff writers Craig Jarvis, Rob Christensen and Franco Ordoñez
Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.