Under the Dome

NC politicos had a lot to say in 2015

Dana Cope, former executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, with his lawyer Roger Smith, Jr., right, listens to courtroom proceedings where he pled guilty of stealing money from SEANC in front of Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens on November 17, 2015. Judge Stephens sentenced Cope to 58 to 82 months in state prison.
Dana Cope, former executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, with his lawyer Roger Smith, Jr., right, listens to courtroom proceedings where he pled guilty of stealing money from SEANC in front of Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens on November 17, 2015. Judge Stephens sentenced Cope to 58 to 82 months in state prison. clowenst@newsobserver.com

Sometimes a year in review is best summarized by the memorable remarks our friends in politics make. Here’s a look back at 2015 in things they said, planned and unplanned.

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“I came to Raleigh as an outsider. You know, they’ve been attacking us from day one, and they’re all working to stop the Carolina comeback. They want to turn the clock back to the days of higher unemployment, higher taxes and big government. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re not going to go back to that North Carolina.”

— Gov. Pat McCrory in a campaign fundraising video

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“Throw me in the briar patch. Accuse me of trying to fight for my folks. I’m OK with that.”

— State Rep. David Lewis, a Dunn Republican, responding to accusations that he protected the state contract of a friend and campaign donor.

This sounds an awful lot like wanting judges to come into the court with a particular political agenda.

Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson

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“This sounds an awful lot like wanting judges to come into the court with a particular political agenda, and that does not seem to me to be what our oath requires or permits us to do.”

— N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Robin Hudson on outside groups spending money to defeat judges who are perceived as threats to laws passed by state legislatures.

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“I’ve been asked: Am I anti-regulations? The answer is there are plenty of regulations that need to be written. There are plenty of regulations that need to be enforced. And there are plenty of regulations that are obsolete.”

— Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Donald van der Vaart.

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“That’s one reason I had to run a grassroots campaign – not like candidates who are losing always say they’re running a grassroots campaign. I started running a grassroots campaign very early on, so it’s reality and not just a political slogan.”

— Democratic candidate for governor Ken Spaulding

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“This is an important thing in this mean and dangerous world.”

Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry on the need to maintain his agency’s vigilance against terrorism without meddling from state legislators.

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“I know Rep. Nelson Dollar and I are frequently at odds, but for him and his wife to manufacture such an outrageous accusation — based on zero facts — is ruthless, and pitching it to the FBI in a calculated attempt to tear me down is dirty politics and character assassination at its worst.”

— Sen. Bob Rucho, the Matthews Republican, on public safety official Lorrie Dollar telling the FBI that the senator had taken an interest in prison maintenance contracts that were under scrutiny.

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“It was inappropriate. It was uncomfortable. But there has been no quid pro quo and therefore no crime.”

Perry telling legislators about Charlotte developer Graeme Keith’s attempts to extend and expand his private prison maintenance contracts in phone calls and in a meeting with Gov. Pat McCrory, who said he didn’t hear Keith’s remark that he had given a lot of money to candidates and now it was time to get something in return.

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“I’m just a small-town lawyer, that’s all I’ve been. I won’t change at all from the way I’ve been all these years. What you see is what you get.”

Rep. Tim Moore, a Kings Mountain Republican, on his pending election to House speaker.

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“Last night I was reading the Communist Manifesto so I could get a better understanding of redistribution of wealth, so I could be prepared for this bill.”

Rep. Charles Jeter, a Mecklenburg County Republican, opposing a bill that would shift the sales tax.

I am here because I am a thief.

Dana Cope

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“I would be hard pressed to see how eyebrow waxing helps state employees.”

— Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, in reference to one of the personal expenses former State Employees Association of North Carolina Executive Director Dana Cope incurred on a SEANC credit card.

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“In recent days, I’ve come to realize that in carrying out the duties of my job, I have blurred the line between my personal life and my professional life.”

— Cope, announcing his resignation in February.

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“I am here because I am a thief. I need to do what is appropriate and take full responsibility.”

— Cope, in November after being sentenced to prison for 58 to 82 months after pleading guilty to stealing a half-million dollars from SEANC.

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“If I go to the corner store, I want a honey bun and a Coke. Have you been to these corner stores that have the fruits? I wouldn’t eat them if you paid me — they’ve been sitting there for awhile.”

— Rep. Michael Speciale, New Bern Republican, opposing a plan to put fresh produce in convenience stores.

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Confederate soldiers “were traitors to this country, and they don’t deserve the same respect as those who fought in other wars.”

— Rep. Cecil Brockman, Democrat of High Point, during debate on a monuments bill.

No matter how qualified, anyone advanced under your chairmanship would be fruit from a poisonous tree.

Thom Goolsby, UNC Board of Governors

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“Let me start by saying I was wrong for not having worn my seat belt. It was a moment of deep frustration that I could have handled better. ... The heart of my issue with this incident lies with being treated with suspicion and being seen as a threat for no other reason I can figure than being black.”

— Brockman after he repeatedly told troopers who pulled him over that he was a state representative.

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“This board believes Tom Ross has been a wonderful president. Fantastic work ethic. Perfect integrity. Worked well with our board.”

— John Fennebresque, former chairman of the UNC Board of Governors, moments after the board forced out UNC President Tom Ross.

“No matter how qualified, anyone advanced under your chairmanship would be fruit from a poisonous tree.”

— Former legislator and UNC Board of Governors member Thom Goolsby to Fennebresque, as the board prepared to meet with then-presidential candidate Margaret Spellings.

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“Consensual sexual relationships do not have monetary value and therefore are not reportable as gifts or ‘reportable expenditures made for lobbying’ for purposes of the lobbying law’s expenditure reporting provisions.”

— State Ethics Commission opinion finding that sex between lobbyists and state officials doesn’t have to be disclosed in financial disclosure reports.

Staff writers Craig Jarvis, Colin Campbell and Jane Stancill

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