Under the Dome

Dome: McCrory campaign forfeits money from indicted man's wife

jfrank@newsobserver.comMarch 26, 2013 

Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign said Tuesday that it would forfeit the money received from the wife of a North Carolina man indicted in an Ohio gambling operation.

VS2 Worldwide Communications owner Richard Upchurch’s wife, Sherry, gave the Republican a $2,000 check in October – six months after Upchurch was indicted by an Ohio prosecutor for illegal gambling and money laundering. A superseding indictment came down March 13.

Kim Genardo, a McCrory spokeswoman, said the governor’s campaign donated the $2,000 contribution to a charity. State law does not require candidates to purge the money, but politicians often do so to avoid the appearance of any connection to questionable donors.

McCrory did the same with political contributions from Chase Burns, the owner of International Internet Technologies, a sweepstakes company caught in a gambling investigation in Florida. The new charges against Upchurch and those against Burns came down the same day, but Upchurch’s donations escaped scrutiny until Dome reported the family’s contributions Tuesday.

Sherry Upchurch also contributed $2,000 to House Speaker Thom Tillis. His spokesman did not respond to questions sent Monday about the contribution. But Tillis did donate the $6,500 he received from Burns to the Soldiers & Airmen Assistance Fund. The group is a nonprofit charity that helps Army and Air Guard families with financial assistance in hard times.

N.C. gets D in transparency

North Carolina has received a “D” when it comes to government spending transparency, according to a new report by a public interest group.

The state received a poor grade compared with other states based on an inventory of the content and ease-of-use of states’ transparency websites.

Following the Money 2013: How States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data is the fourth annual report by the NCPIRG Education Fund.

The group offered grades ranging from “A” to “F” to each state.

The states with the most comprehensive transparency websites are Texas, Massachusetts, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Oklahoma. The worst states were North Dakota, California, Hawaii, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Rhode Island and Montana.

The state’s “NC Open Book” website provides checkbook-level spending information on contracts and grants. However, according to the report, it lacks detailed information in other areas, such as economic development tax credits and noncontract payments to vendors, as well as descriptions of projected and achieved benefits of economic development subsidies.

“State governments across the country have become more transparent about where public money goes, providing citizens with the information they need to hold elected officials and businesses that receive public funds accountable,” said Phineas Baxandall, senior analyst with the group. “But North Carolina still has a long way to go.”

Filing deadline brings surge

Thursday is the deadline for filing any nonfinance bills this session, so lawmakers have been busy. On Monday and Tuesday, 82 bills were filed – 23 in the House and 59 in the Senate.

A few that caught Dome’s eyes:

• HB 436 would amend the state constitution to have the governor and lieutenant governor run as a team.

• SB 405 allows Council of State members who have concealed handgun permit to carry those guns on state property while working.

• SB 404 authorizes local school boards to adopt policies that would allow students to attend off-campus religious instruction and receive elective credit for the class.

Staff writers John Frank, Rob Christensen and Mary Cornatzer

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