Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Listening to the 'political slime' alarm

I've interviewed a lot of politicians, and sometimes – not most of the time, but sometimes – you feel as if you want to take a shower afterward. The two who set off that slime-alarm bell most loudly? Jim Black and Mike Easley.

Black, the Matthews optometrist and former N.C. House speaker, is now in prison for a variety of election-related (and cash-in-envelopes-in-the-men's-room-at-the-Capital-Grille-related) behaviors. Former Gov. Mike Easley is being depicted by Observer and Raleigh News & Observer coverage, not to mention at this week's state elections board hearings, as extremely challenged in the ethics department.

From now on, I will listen to my instincts more often. There have been some other candidates over the years, some of them still in office, who set off that alarm. I'm not going to say who, because to accuse them of being crooks, without having evidence, would be libel. And it would be unfair, because there is the possibility my slime alarm isn't 100 percent accurate. (For the record, none of the City Council candidates or mayor candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot set off the slime alarm. I don't agree with some of them, but that's different.)
And don't get me started on the "crazy as a bedbug" alarm. That's an even longer list ...


Anonymous said...

Foxx sets off the slime alarm

diggndeeper said...
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Anonymous said...

Oh, come on, out with the "Crazy as a bedbug" list! :-))

I don't understand why the current crop of council candidates doesn't set off your "slime alarm," especially considering your recent post about how just about every council candidate for the past 10 years has jumped in bed with developers for $1,000 donations or less.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

My slime alarm goes off when a candidate gets the Observer's endorsement.

Jim Black? check
Mike Easley? check
Barack Obama? check

Remember that in the upcoming election. ESPECIALLY the School Board and City Council races.

Anonymous said...

In your definition, Mary, slime = crook = EXTREMELY ethically challenged.

I agree that no candidate in Charlotte’s current mayoral or city council races matches that criterion. Therefore none set off a slime alarm. But when citizens still ring the alarm bell, as they’ve been doing in Charlotte this election, there’s obviously some level of conflagration that needs to be addressed, even if it isn’t first-degree felony slime.

Foe eons, Charlotte citizens – and not just a few - have questioned whether developers have undue influence over the property rights of individuals and neighborhoods. They hear of developers lobbying with city representatives at council’s pre-meeting dinners. They hear of solons approving a developer’s project despite opposition from the zoning committee, city planners, neighborhoods or any combination thereof. They hear that council usually doesn’t explain its pro-developer votes, even in light of widespread opposition. They hear of large developer donations to mayoral and council campaigns. They know the candidate benefits, because that’s less of the office seeker’s own money that must go toward campaign finances.

In my definition, perpetuation of an unleveled playing field +failure to communicate + questionable campaign financing = somewhat ethically challenged.

Not enough to make you Jim Black’s cellmate, but more than sufficient for voters to boot candidates who think “it’s monkey business as usual”, which, when you think about it, seems to have been Mike Easley’s motto.

I would think that council would be anxious to clean up this inequity and remove anything that could even suggest impropriety. Unfortunately, boosted by the city attorney’s absolution, don’t see their action as even a misdemeanor. Fortunately this ducking the issue sometimes backfires. I recall a recent state senate race in which the losing candidate – endorsed by the Observer – faced a backlash due to his leadership in promoting a developer’s unpopular project and his having accepted campaign contributions from that developer.

City Council: Clean up your act; We’ll get off your back.

Anonymous said...

This comment has been deleted by Mary Newsom.

Anonymous said...

Mary, I'd be interested in knowing if you ever shared your slime-alarm concerns with your fellow editorial board members. I believe these 2 gentlemen were always endorsed by the board. It really is hard to believe that as crooked as these guys were, apparently no one else had any concerns and yours were not enough to raise any issues.

Two other questions--do you think other members of the board are going to be a little more observant from now on? Have they learned anything from this mess (for one thing, that democrats as well as Republicans can be bad guys--really bad guys)?

And finally, how did you feel about John Edwards? Any trace of slime there when he ran for the senate? I'm pretty sure the Observer endorsed him as well.

Anonymous said...

did not the Observer endorse both federal prisoner number 50655-056 (aka James Black) and Easley? I could not help but laugh when I read that you sorry paper has lost 20,000 subscribers in the last 6 months

Jumper said...

Did Black push to get some legislation passed for unethical reasons, and then the legislature left that legislation in place with no attempt to reconsider it; nullifying it?

Mary Newsom said...

Good question, anon 7:48 PM.

First, I never got that "ugh, need a shower" feeling from Edwards. So the slime-factor-indicator is obviously not 100 percent accurate.

Also, saying "I don't know, there's no evidence but I just get a bad feeling ..." isn't, in my experience, a persuasive argument in endorsement conversations. In Jim Black's case, when he had opponents over the years, some were of the "bedbug" variety. In other instances (remember, there was no evidence of any wrongdoing on Black's part) we endorsed Black, part of the reasoning being that a House Speaker from Mecklenburg is a good thing for Mecklenburg (and that proved accurate). In 2006 we endorsed his Republican opponent, Hal Jordan.

Easley in 2004: His opponent, Patrick Ballentine, was a bad choice for a variety of reasons I won't get into, but they went some ways beyond party membership.

Anonymous said...

Easley had TWO opponents in 2004, Patrick BALLANTINE (note correct spelling) and Libertarian Barbara Howe.

Anonymous said...

Gut feeling. Mary you should not listen to your "gut feelings".

Anonymous said...

The slime factor is something the Observer fails to look at. Hunt, Easley, and Black all did unethical/illegal deeds reported only AFTER out of office. Good watchdog! This is why this paper does such a disservice to the community it serves, and why thos of us that care about the community have to seek meaningful reporting elsewhere.

Black and Easley's character was well known, and who the the Observer endorse??

Sad former reader