Earlier this year, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger gave a head fake when he ran television ads touting Republican policies and sharply criticizing Kay Hagan. Most pundits, including me, thought he was about to jump into the U. S. Senate primary. Instead, Sen. Berger was just teeing up his son and namesake, Phil Berger, Jr., to run for the seat being vacated by Congressman Howard Coble.
It was a shrewd move. Since the two share a name and officially neither Berger had set up a Federal election committee, no one could complain that the Senator was violating FEC laws with an independent expenditure on behalf of Berger, Jr., aka, Baby Berger. But that’s what it seemed to be–an opportunity to expand Berger’s name beyond Rockingham County, where Baby Berger serves as District Attorney, and give him a solid lead in name recognition before Coble had even announced his retirement.
The whole episode was a bit shady but had plenty of plausible deniability. It was also smart politics. The ad was paid for out of a state account and ran only in the Greensboro media market, the largest market in the 6th Congressional District. It slammed “liberals” over voter ID, and ends with “Phil Berger. Effective Conservative.” It was a $100,000 head start in the GOP primary.
Baby Berger likes to position himself as a liberty loving conservative allied with the Tea Party and supportive of Rand Paul. But as District Attorney, he’s taking notes from the NSA. When a new courthouse was built, Berger had an audio system installed that broadcast court proceedings directly into his office. It would allow him to hear off-the-record conversations between judges and lawyers. Fortunately, the system was shut down shortly after it was discovered. However, it tells a lot about Berger’s so-called beliefs.
Berger might talk about personal liberty and the evils of Big Government, but he doesn’t seem to live by those mantras. Like a lot of politicians, beliefs are more about convenience than principles. The system is one to be played and used to your advantage. He and his father have the strings. They’ll play them well.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >