For decades, we’ve heard conservatives say that government should be run like a business. After ten years of GOP rule in North Carolina and almost three years of the Trump administration, we now know what that looks like. Politicians use their positions to benefit themselves and friends through shady business transactions while declaring what they’re doing is perfectly legal. It may be legal but it’s also shady and destroying trust in elected officials.
This week, we learned that Senate President Pro-tem Phil Berger is using campaign funds to buy himself a new house in Raleigh. Of course, it’s all legal. I mean, who doesn’t have a slush fund underwritten by big donors, many of whom have business before the Senate, to help buy investment property in the fastest growing city in the state?
Longtime campaign finance reform advocate Bob Hall filed a complaint against Berger. In response, Berger henchman Dylan Watts called Hall a “scumbag” and “bottom-feeder” and implied that Hall worked for Governor Roy Cooper. Hall has been an independent his entire life who received a MacArthur grant and was a central figure in bringing down Democratic House Speaker Jim Black. Watts reflects the ethos of the modern Republican Party taken over by Trump, wearing his ignorance like a badge of honor and relying on name-calling and personal attacks to deflect from the problem.
Berger is not alone in profiting off his position in the legislature. House Speaker Tim Moore paid himself rent for a townhouse he owned in Raleigh. The state board of elections said that’s legal, too. Moore also has profited from land deals and contracts that came as the result of his network in the legislature. Moore is also paid a handsome sum to serve as county attorney in Cleveland County. Who knew getting elected to a job that pays less than $20,000 a year could be so lucrative?
But it’s not just the legislators themselves who benefit. Their friends do well, too. A former Moore aide, Andy Munn, got $500,000 put into the budget to fund a new sex offender tracking program. The money wasn’t requested by either the Sheriff’s Association, which received the money, or the SBI. Munn represent a company that provides the tracking service.
And who can forget Solar Bees? Legislators gave a company more than $1 million to clean up algae in Jordan Lake using technology that was unproven and, ultimately, unsuccessful. The measure was pushed, in part, by big businesses opposed to rules that would prevent pollution from entering Jordan Lake in the first place. The lake is the primary source of drinking water for numerous communities in the Triangle.
Republicans in the General Assembly have created their own swamp in Raleigh. They’re benefitting financially from their tenure in the legislature. Less than a decade ago, they were reformers elected to clean up state government. Today, they’re just too comfortable making sure they get the benefit of big donors and powerful friends. It’s time to drain the swamp again.
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 >