Morning Memo: Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon’s stunning fall

Posted by John Frank on March 27, 2014 

Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon’s arrest and criminal complaint is extraordinary in its sweep and its detail.

The most stunning image is this one: At a Jan. 17, 2013, meeting, the undercover agent allegedly “gave Cannon $12,500 in cash by placing it on the coffee table in front of him. At the same time, (the agent) stated: ‘Well, there is the twelve five under the radar.’

“When (the agent) presented the cash, Cannon looked nervously towards the window and covered the money with a folder. … After (the agent) closed the window blinds, Cannon placed the money near his ear and fanned the bills. Before and after he was given this cash, Cannon promoted himself as the right person to insure that (the agent) does not have any problems with the city.”

Cannon’s prominence sent him to the White House and he enjoyed a close personal relationship with Gov. Pat McCrory, who seemed anguished, as if he lost a loved one, in reacting to the news.

And the ties to another Charlotte scandal are astounding: The case included allegations of payoff negotiations at the Capital Grille – the same uptown steakhouse that figured in the region’s last major political scandal. It was there that former N.C. House Speaker Jim Black of Matthews, also a Democrat, took bribes from a group of chiropractors seeking help with legislation.

It’s a story where you can’t get enough. Here’s a primer:

The lead story: Patrick Cannon, who rose from public housing to become mayor of North Carolina’s largest city, was arrested Wednesday by the FBI and accused of accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes – including $20,000 in cash delivered in a briefcase last month to the mayor’s office. Read more here.

More: Cannon boasted about his political connections. Read more here. Excerpts from the indictment. Read here. Gov. Pat McCrory reacts. Read more here. A timeline. Here. His resignation letter. Read it here. Editorial cartoon. See it here.

*** More fundraising maneuvers in the Senate race below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend the State Construction Conference at 9 a.m. Thursday in Raleigh and later make a presentation for Wilmington’s Azalea Festival at 11 a.m. at the governor’s mansion. At 2 p.m. he will attend the ribbon cutting ceremony for MetLife’s new headquarters in Charlotte.

SEN. MANCHIN TO HELP HAGAN RAISE MONEY: From one targeted Democrat to another, West Virginia Sen. Joe Machin will travel to the Asheville area for a Kay Hagan fundraiser Saturday.

The event – with hosts paying $2,600 and guests $100 – is at the Brasstown home of Hayden Rogers, Manchin’s chief of staff, according to an invite. Rogers previously served as chief of staff to Rep. Heath Shuler and made an unsuccessful bid for Shuler’s seat in 2012 when his boss retired.

NEW SUPER PAC: Emily’s List, a national political group that works to elect women, recently formed a super PAC at the federal level to help boost U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and congressional candidate Alma Adams.

Dubbed “North Carolina Women Vote!,” the group is preparing outside expenditures to help boost the two candidates. “North Carolina Women Vote will seek to educate women voters about the most pressing issues facing North Carolina families in the 2014 elections,” said Marcy Stech, a national spokeswoman.

MARK HARRIS EMAIL: “THE TILLIS CAMPAIGN IS IN FULL PANIC MODE.” Read more about it on Dome later today.

BRANNON FIRES AT TILLIS, TOO: From a Brannon statement Wednesday: “Since November there have been eight candidate forums put together by various organizations across the state and Timid Thom has successfully avoided every single one.

“Timid Thom was missing in action at forums hosted by The Gaston County Tea Party, Conservatives for Guilford County, and The Forsyth County Republican Party. He didn’t even to bother to participate in a forum hosted by the Lake Norman Conservatives in January that was held less than 10 minutes from his house!

“In February we heard that Timid Thom is “chomping at the bit” to debate. Since then he’s been able to avoid tough questions at forums hosted by The Republican Women of Cary and Southwest Wake, The Cumberland County Republican Men’s Club, The Greater Guilford Republican Women’s Club, and The Rowan County Tea Party.

“Chomping at the bit? After seven years in public office, you’d think Tillis’ shaky knees and butterflies would be gone. You have to wonder why Timid Thom isn’t taking this race seriously.”

#NCPOL ---

DENR HIRES FORMER PROSECUTOR TO AID IN PROBE: Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration has hired a former U.S. attorney with close ties to the prosecutor who is heading the federal investigation into possible environmental and other crimes related to coal ash pollution.

Mark Calloway will help steer the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources through the process. He has extensive experience in the U.S. Department of Justice and in private practice focusing on government investigations.

He was the United States attorney in Charlotte from 1994 to 2001, where he hired Thomas Walker as a prosecutor. He also supervised Walker at Alston & Bird, the law firm where Calloway still works. Walker is now the U.S. attorney in Raleigh; his office is supervising the investigation into how DENR has regulated Duke Energy’s coal ash plants. Read more here.

GOP LAWMAKER DEFENDS McCRORY: Republicans are starting to publicly rally to defend the McCrory administration. Rep. Frank Iler of Oak Island issued a seemingly unprompted statement Wednesday saying the problem has been around since he was first elected in 2008.

“Coal ash was being discussed in environmental committees in the state legislature when I arrived in 2009,” he said in the statement. “Apparently, the urgency wasn’t there under Governors Hunt, Easley and Perdue to solve the impending problem. Blaming Governor McCrory for this is akin to blaming my recently-elected hometown council for trying to fix a sewer cost overrun problem that the previous councils incurred over the prior 10 years.”

RELATED: Duke Energy to take ‘fact-based approach’ to ash ponds. Read more here.

McCRORY WARNS TRANSIT DOLLARS MAY DRY UP: North Carolina transportation improvement projects will stall if Congress fails to avert the expected bankruptcy this summer for the national Highway Trust Fund, Gov. Pat McCrory told state business leaders Wednesday.

“The business community has got to step up and get Congress unparalyzed up there,” McCrory said at a daylong conference on transportation and the state economy. “This is coming very quickly, and it could cost us a billion dollars here in North Carolina.”

Conference speakers warned that both the state and federal governments are failing to keep up with the rising cost of transportation needs. Read more here.

CHEROKEE CASINO REVENUE GROWTH SLOWS: A weak economy has slowed gambling revenues at U.S. Indian casinos just as North Carolina’s Cherokee Indians build a second gambling hall.

A national report released Wednesday by Casino City’s Indian Gaming Industry says Indian casino revenue growth in 2012 slowed to 2 percent, down from 3.4 percent in the previous year. At North Carolina’s only casino, revenue was up by nearly 3 percent in 2012, compared to 5.8 percent in the previous year. North Carolina’s one casino is operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Read more here.

AIKEN RAISING MONEY IN ATLANTA: Congressional candidate and crooner Clay Aiken was in Atlanta this week raising money. Jennifer Brett, The Buzz blogger for the Access Atlanta website, reports Aiken showed up for dinner at a restaurant called Pricci on Tuesday night, posting for a photo with executive chef Piero Premoli, following an appearance at a golf club.

STATE ELECTIONS OFFICE ADDS SPOKESMAN: The N.C. State Board of Elections has hired a spokesman to field media inquiries and help the public understand the state’s new voting laws, including the voter ID requirement that will take effect in 2016, the Insider reports.

Josh Lawson’s first day on the job was Monday, and he attended the state board’s regular meeting. His salary is $50,716. Lawson said he previously worked in commercial litigation at the Law Office of John T. Benjamin Jr. in Raleigh.

Kim Westbrook Strach, the state board’s executive director, said she didn’t believe the agency has ever had a public information officer but that it has needed one for a long time. She said Lawson’s job would involve educating the public about the new voting laws and responding to media questions. “I feel it’s really important to be responsive to the media, and it’s very difficult with the number of calls we get,” Strach said.

QUICK HEADLINES ---

Medicaid spending gap estimated to be lower than last year. Read more here.

Hagan: I still work, meet with Obama. Read more here.

Stan White campaign gets NCAE endorsement. Read more here.

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