Bev Perdue should resign

by Jim Longworth

Last week, two different factions targeted their ire toward Gov. Beverly Perdue. One was the Guardians of the Free Republics, the other was the NC Republican Party. The former is a radical anti-government group that is demanding that all 50 governors vacate their offices or else be removed.

The Guardians made no threats of violence, but the FBI is investigating nonetheless. Meanwhile, the state GOP is on its own warpath against Perdue. Specifically, party chair Tom Fetzer called on the NC Board of Elections to move faster on, and broaden the scope of, its investigation into Perdue’s 2008 campaign. While it is always good to keep an eye on right-wing nuts like the Guardians, and prudent to take rantings of the GOP with a grain of salt, perhaps the most serious threat to our state government may just be coming from the common object of their collective derision.

Among the campaign irregularities being investigated are $48,000 in contributions from nine donors that might have been reimbursed by their employers. Knowing the heat was on, Perdue returned the money, but that shouldn’t affect the investigation, or lessen the possible crime. And while corporate reimbursement of employee political contributions is illegal, the Perdue transgression that concerns me most is her acceptance of 31 free flights, which previously went unreported.

One problem is that, thus far, the media and the SBE have miscategorized those flights. We are being told that the 31 flights had a “value” of $25,000, but that is not accurate. The sum of $25,000 might be what the flights would cost had Perdue paid for them out of pocket, but in this case, cost has nothing to do with value.

Then-candidate Perdue used the free flights to travel to important campaign events, raise money and meet lots of people. Those trips translated directly into votes. They also translated into donations which fueled her negative TV ads against opponent Pat McCrory, which reached millions of other voters. This should concern every citizen because Perdue only defeated McCrory by 145,000 votes, and the fruits of those 31 flights could well have made the difference. If such is the case, then Bev acquired her office fraudulently, and that is not only a violation of SBE rules, it is a crime.

In the real world, someone who commits fraud pays a fine or goes to jail. Or both. And when practical, they are ordered to return the “property” which they illegally obtained. We know that Perdue accepted tainted money, and we know that she accepted tainted flights. If she was able to win an election because of those factors, then she should return her title (the property) to its rightful owner. But politics is not the real world. At most, the SBE might refer these matters to prosecutors who could recommend jail time for our governor. The same has happened with Meg Scott Phipps, Jim Black and a host of other Tarheel pols. But again, even prison time doesn’t make the victim whole. If Pat McCrory was denied an election because of campaign violations by Perdue, then the office should be awarded to McCrory. It should be noted that the state Democratic Party alleges Mc- Crory is also guilty of campaign violations, and should be investigated. That’s fine with me, and if it turns out that both Perdue and McCrory are guilty, then Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton would replace Bev.

Clearly, my fantasy scenario for justice will never happen. Still, Perdue should do the honorable thing now, and resign her office. McCrory would still be denied his “property,” but the public wouldn’t have to endure more scandal and investigations. Meanwhile, the radical Guardians might think they won their crusade, and decide to leave the other 49 governors alone for awhile. Also on the plus side, leaving Raleigh is something Bev is good at. It would be gratifying to see her take flight one last time.

Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).