Clean-up hitters

August 31, 2012 

In his 2008 run for the governorship, Republican Pat McCrory gained traction by ripping the Democrats who ran things in Raleigh for being ethically challenged. Crooks, in other words. McCrory was all about eradicating a “culture of corruption.”

His campaign against Democrat Beverly Perdue fell short, but when he could point to a Democratic speaker of the state House (Jim Black) who went to prison on bribery-related charges, his points about the capital culture couldn’t be lightly dismissed. Perdue’s Democratic predecessor (Mike Easley) eventually pleaded guilty in federal court to a campaign finance violation. And Perdue has wrangled with some campaign finance-related troubles of her own.

So now McCrory hopes his familiar refrain will pay off in his contest with Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton to succeed Perdue, who decided four years as governor would be plenty.

Dalton understands that he needs to make government integrity a bedrock of his own campaign. To that end, he calls for reforms to advance those that Perdue, to her credit, has pursued. Among his proposals: a stronger state Ethics Commission, tougher anti-corruption penalties, more disclosure for campaign contributors and eight-year term limits for legislative leadership jobs. He also wants a more open budgeting process.

Not surprisingly, Dalton also seeks to make McCrory uncomfortable by pressing for more disclosure of officials’ personal finances.

That reflects McCrory’s unwillingness to release information beyond the disclosure now required, which provides minimal detail. As someone who has worked as a policy consultant for a law firm with a state government lobbying arm, the former Charlotte mayor’s sources of income are of more than passing interest. Dalton has released tax records; his opponent hasn’t. McCrory would enhance his own credibility as a cleaner-upper if he were more forthcoming.

McCrory aims a lot of fire at Perdue, but she has moved the reform needle – for example, in minimizing the Board of Transportation’s role in the selection of highway projects.

The old arrangement made the board a magnet for people who wanted to push projects for their own benefit and who made campaign contributions accordingly – a slimy set-up. If McCrory and Dalton want to judged as to who is more likely to continue Perdue’s progress in giving state government a better ethical tone, that shapes up as a good deal for the public.

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