No question: McCrory mishandled Duke stock

The following editorial appeared in the Charlotte Observer:

We’re not sure which is most upsetting:

Duke, a regulated utility, gave more than $650,000 in campaign contributions to candidates in 2013 and lobbies the McCrory administration and legislators on an array of issues. The governor appoints members of the Utilities Commission and the administration (occasionally) enforces environmental laws. Yet McCrory, who worked at Duke for 29 years, held on to his Duke stock into April, even as he was orchestrating the state’s response to Duke’s spill into the Dan River. That is a direct conflict. He should have sold it the day after he was elected, or at least put his holdings into a blind trust as many other high-ranking elected officials do.

McCrory blames the inaccurate report on his general counsel, Bob Stephens. The forms ask for McCrory’s holdings as of Dec. 31, 2013. McCrory says Stephens “misread” the forms and thought they should reflect holdings as of April 15, 2014, one day after the governor sold the last of his Duke stock.

The governor hopes that excuse is good enough. We don’t recommend you try using it with the IRS if you misstate information on your Form 1040. And scores of other public officials with significantly smaller teams of legal experts managed to read the instructions correctly. It would be stunning for Stephens, with vast experience in public affairs and a 40-year legal career, to overlook something so basic.

McCrory is not being transparent. He won’t say how much Duke stock he owned; state law is flawed in that it requires him only to say whether it was worth more than $10,000, but it could be any amount above that.

Rather than owning the mistake, McCrory issued a defensive statement and said he broke no rules. In May, a spokesman pointed to the now-discredited disclosure report and said it “eliminates the often repeated, ridiculous and false, partisan left-wing attacks challenging the intent of our decisions and policies.” That reminds one of Hillary Clinton dismissing probes into her husband as just a “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

No conspiracy put Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office, no conspiracy convicted Democratic Gov. Mike Easley of campaign finance irregularities. And no conspiracy made McCrory hang on to a personal stake in a company he’s supposed to be regulating for the good of the state.

MCT Information Services