ICYMI: McCrory scandal coverage goes national; Republicans start to jump ship

Quotes from North Carolina Republicans:

  • “No politician likes to hear the words ‘FBI investigation,'” said Carter Wrenn, a Republican consultant who worked for former Sen. Jesse Helms. “Part of what makes the problem worse is that the governor’s own people, they’re confirming what the donor said. … So just the fact that you’ve got that ethical question out there, that’s a factor in the campaign.”
 
  • “He’s had all sorts of gaffes, mix-ups and problems with his administration, like the investigation at HHS, [and] even got out-fundraised by the Democrat,” said a North Carolina Republican operative, granted anonymity to discuss McCrory’s position candidly. “This is one more straw on the camel’s back.
  • “You can boil it down to a sentence: The governor’s buddy, who gave his campaign a lot of money, asked for a favor, a contract extension, and he got it,” said another Raleigh Republican operative. “It’s a pretty damning story.”
By: Elena Schneider
Politico Pro
11/10/2015
 
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is Democrats’ top gubernatorial target in 2016. The party successfully recruited popular state Attorney General Roy Cooper, who won reelection unopposed in 2012, to face McCrory – and polls already show Cooper tied or slightly ahead of the Republican incumbent.
But McCrory’s already-precarious political position was compromised further last month when two in-state newspapers reported that McCrory “personally intervened” in a state contract extension for a longtime political donor.
McCrory has called the story “distorted,” but the FBI is investigating the deal, and the GOP-controlled state Legislature also plans to conducted an oversight hearing later this month.
“No politician likes to hear the words ‘FBI investigation,'” said Carter Wrenn, a Republican consultant who worked for former Sen. Jesse Helms. “Part of what makes the problem worse is that the governor’s own people, they’re confirming what the donor said. … So just the fact that you’ve got that ethical question out there, that’s a factor in the campaign.”
According to the report, which appeared in both the Charlotte Observer and the Raleigh News and Observer, McCrory arranged a meeting last fall between prison officials and longtime donor and friend Graeme Keith Sr. about whether to extend Keith’s private prison contract with the state. Keith reportedly told attendees that he had “given a lot of money to candidates,” and “it was now time for him to get something in return.”
It’s not the first time McCrory’s administration has come under fire. In September, the U.S. attorney opened an investigation into possible conflicts of interest in contracts and hiring practices at the Department of Health and Human Services, WRAL reported. McCrory was also criticized over the summer for appointing Paul Foley, a campaign donor, to the state’s Board of Elections, even as the board was investigating a case in which Foley’s law firm represented the defendant. Under pressure from McCrory, Foley resigned.
“He’s had all sorts of gaffes, mix-ups and problems with his administration, like the investigation at HHS, [and] even got out-fundraised by the Democrat,” said a North Carolina Republican operative, granted anonymity to discuss McCrory’s position candidly. “This is one more straw on the camel’s back.”
In the first six months of the year, Cooper raised $2.1 million, while McCrory brought in $1.3 million. Cooper also leads McCrory on cash on hand by about $600,000.
McCrory’s team predicts the most recent scandal won’t dog the governor’s reelection bid.
“There have been so many complaints, so many accusations that have since been dismissed or proven false, so this one will not be an exception,” said Chris LaCivita, the longtime GOP hand advising McCrory’s reelection campaign. “The [Observer] has completely overplayed their hand.”
Indeed, two ethics complaints filed by Progress NC, a liberal advocacy group, were dismissed last week by the state’s Ethics Commission. One complaint alleged that McCrory had not properly disclose his involvement in Duke Energy, the governor’s former employer, while another said he misrepresented his role in his brother’s business.
But several Republicans said that unlike other bad headlines, the prison contracts controversy is an easily digestible story that can be explained in a 30-second attack ad, making it more effective in swaying potential voters.
“You can boil it down to a sentence: The governor’s buddy, who gave his campaign a lot of money, asked for a favor, a contract extension, and he got it,” said another Raleigh Republican operative. “It’s a pretty damning story.”
Dallas Woodhouse, the state’s GOP chairman, said they were already bracing for attack ads.
“Maybe it will be the [prison contracts] they use, or they’ll pick something else, but it is coming no matter what,” said Woodhouse.
Woodhouse and LaCivita said that improvements in the state’s economy since 2012 will be the campaign’s focus.
“The plan all along is to take the governor’s record of accomplishment to the voters,” Woodhouse said.
Democrats are hopeful they can use the slow drip of scandals to chip away further at McCrory.
“In politics, perception is more important than reality,” said Perry Woods, a local Democratic consultant. “But how truly damaging this story is may be limited to whether or not there’s an indictment handed down.”