Raleigh – House Republicans today voted to put a deceptive constitutional amendment on the ballot to turn the State Board of Elections and Ethics into a 4-4 body with members handpicked by the legislature.
This new body is designed to fail. By shifting it from an odd number of members to even, it’s destined for perpetual gridlock. Republican leader David Lewis even stated that it’s designed like the Federal Elections Commission, a notoriously ineffective body. Here’s a former chairperson of the FEC:
“Unfortunately, a controlling bloc of three Republican commissioners who are ideologically opposed to the F.E.C.’s purpose regularly ignores violations or drastically reduce penalties … These commissioners have been enabled by the commission’s very structure.”
There’s a more pernicious effect, however. A body created by legislators, with members handpicked by legislators, responsible for investigating ethics and corruptions complaints against legislators has a clear conflict of interest.
By advancing this amendment, legislators are trying to insulate themselves from investigations into corruption and ethics allegations.
There’s already a body created by the legislature under legislative control tasked with investigating legislators. To no one’s surprise, it’s ineffective. The Legislative Ethics Commission has fielded 17 complaints since 2007 and only two have had any sort of meaningful action, either a private admonishment or a referral to the House or Senate.
It’s clear this new board – modeled on a toothless national agency and under the thumb of legislators like another toothless state agency – not only is designed to fail but will help Republicans insulate themselves from any investigation into their shady behavior.
“Republican legislators pushed forward today with a constitutional amendment to turn the body tasked with investigating legislative misconduct into an ineffective body that’s is under the legislature’s thumb,” NCDP Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds said. “In short, Republicans want to pick who polices them and then handcuff those cops. We have several clear examples of how dangerous this is for our state, but by pushing through this amendment, Republicans show yet again that power politics – not the interests of our state – are what drives the day.”