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Tar Heels nursing ‘black eyes’ in Easley ordeal

At least the North Carolina Board of Elections failed to have significant lapses of memory.

In the wake of last week’s inquiry by the State Board into the campaign of former Governor Mike Easley, stiff fines and strong words were delivered.

Thank goodness there’s someone in Raleigh that does not fear the political machine that is the state’s Democratic Party.

On Friday, the State Elections Board did what most within political circles considered unthinkable – they did more than slap the ex-Governor on the wrist…instead they hit him where it hurts the most – the old wallet.

After hearing four days of testimony from a “Who’s Who” list of powerful allies in the Easley camp, the Board of Elections uncovered enough political dirt to fine the Easley campaign $100,000.

Additionally, the Board found cause to force the NC Democratic Party to forfeit $9,000 in contributions. The Board of Elections was of the opinion that the 9 grand was funneled through the state Democratic Party to Easley’s campaign. That, my friends, is a big “no-no.”

But the real kicker was that the Board of Elections found cause to forward this case to the Wake County District Attorney’s Office. That strongly suggests there is a possibility of criminal wrongdoing.

Woven within four days of testimony, even one day where the former Governor took the stand, were tales of financial misappropriation.

People around the state glued to this story – thanks to a live feed on the Internet – listened as testimony suggested that campaign cash from Easley’s political war chest was used to make repairs on his Raleigh home.

There were tales of free airplanes rides – all over the state and even as far as Florida – given to the Governor while in office.

Another story centered around a questionable land deal Easley was involved in on the southeast coast. It was hinted that campaign cash was forwarded to the Democratic Party – perhaps onwards to the Easley account – in return for seats on influential state boards.

The list goes on and on.

It’s never a good day in your state when your former governor is being closely studied for wrongdoing. This entire ordeal gives every North Carolinian a black eye.

One would have thought that those holding the political power here in the Tar Heel State would have learned a valuable lesson in the Jim Black saga.

That doesn’t seem to be the case, at least on the part of the Easley campaign.

Hopefully, the actions of five individuals on the State Board of Elections will send a message to the “Big D” political machine in North Carolina that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.

If that message is not heeded, we can only hope that the voters of this state will be able to make their point at the ballot box.

Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.