The following editorial appeared in the Greensboro News & Record:
A politician’s best response to bad press is a fundraising appeal.
“The media is at it again,” an email to supporters from Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign said Wednesday. “This time it’s the Associated Press. Yesterday they released a story attacking the governor with false claims and innuendo made by anonymous people with no regard to the facts.”
A donation, it added, “will go a long way to ensuring folks have the truth about the high standards the governor continues to meet and set for those around him.”
The governor’s press office was equally vehement in defending his ethical behavior. As for the facts, the heart of the AP’s report wasn’t disputed.
The governor sat on the board of directors of Tree.com, the Charlotte-based parent of online home-loan company LendingTree. He resigned effective Jan. 31, 2013, more than three weeks after taking office as governor and a day after the board voted to grant him a $171,071 stock payout – 16 months before the stock was due to be vested. At about this time, the governor appointed the state’s banking director (actually reappointing the man appointed by previous Gov. Bev Perdue) and eight members of a regulatory agency that licenses mortgage brokers and investigates complaints.
McCrory’s office challenged suggestions that any of this may have been illegal, that it wasn’t properly disclosed and that he was required to recuse himself from making those appointments.
Granting the governor’s points, his protest appears intended to distract attention from the fact that he was compensated very generously by a company that is subject to state regulation. Complaints are kept secret in North Carolina unless disciplinary action is taken, so it isn’t disclosed whether any complaints are pending against LendingTree.
Not many people earn so much money from their jobs, let alone from an apparent windfall (another recipient was former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford of Appalachian Trial fame, who is now a congressman). So the governor may have been happier if fewer people knew about this.
He also continued to own stock in Duke Energy, his former employer, until after the Dan River coal ash spill in February, even though his administration was charged with enforcing environmental regulations covering utilities. He criticized news media for reporting that, too.
His campaign isn’t helping his cause with its own misstatements of facts, claiming “The AP is actually attacking him for a job he was paid for – before he was governor.” He stayed on the Tree.com payroll for 26 days as governor.
McCrory should have left the board of a company regulated by the state before taking office. Whether the Tree.com’s special action to grant him a six-figure stock payment compromised his position, or his pose as a champion of high ethical standards, is a fair question.