Capital corruption

Published November 16, 2023

By Gary Pearce

Corruption will be big in North Carolina politics in 2024.

As soon as House Speaker Tim Moore (pictured) announced his run for Congress, his Republican opponent Pat Harrigan, a former Army Green Beret who won two Bronze Stars in Afghanistan, ambushed him:

“Tim Moore carries a legacy of corruption, from being bought and paid for by the casino and gambling bosses, to taxpayer-funded sexual escapades.”

When Democratic Congressman Jeff Jackson announced for attorney general, he called North Carolina Republicans “corrupt politicians” and labeled their gerrymandering “blatant corruption.”

As AG, he said, he’ll “fight political corruption.”

Oxford defines corruption as “dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.”

As the definition says, corruption doesn’t always include bribery.

“Dishonest or fraudulent conduct” could describe much of what the Republican-run legislature did in 2023.

They packed sweeping policy changes, special provisions and sweetheart deals in the 1,400-page state budget that was written in secret.

They packed the courts to rule their way.

They packed elections boards their way.

They exempted themselves from public-records laws, so we the people can’t see the written trail behind their backroom wheeling and dealing.

Then, at the end of the session, after long promising to expand Medicaid, they suddenly tried to make expansion contingent on casinos.

They said, in effect, “We’ll give 600,000 people health care, but only if you give one casino company a special deal.”

Governor Roy Cooper and Democratic legislators said no. They said Republicans had lied and broken their promise.

The deal smelled so bad it repelled some Republicans. Berger and Moore had to drop it. But Berger may push casinos again next year.

“Power tends to corrupt,” said Lord Acton, a 19th-century British historian. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

In Raleigh today, that’s absolutely true.