Local Politics

Plea could taint Easley's legacy

Posted November 24, 2010

— Former Governor Mike Easley was instrumental in reforming early education, creating the More at Four voluntary pre-kindergarten program, and getting the state lottery passed.

But after pleading guilty Tuesday to a single campaign finance violation, he is now a convicted felon.

Peace College political science professor David McLennan said as a district attorney Easley had one of the highest conviction rates ever. As governor, he was the first to really make extensive use of the veto, taking on his own party.

“A lot of people are also going to look back and say everything was tainted by the conviction,” he said.

Easley was fined $1,000 and ordered to provide a DNA sample as a convicted felon, but he avoided any prison time.

“Whatever price he had to pay in the courts doesn’t compare to the price he’s gonna have to pay in terms of his reputation and historical legacy,” said Gary Pearce, former Gov. Jim Hunt's longtime aid and author of his biography.

Pearce believes Easley will never be able to escape this dark shadow.

“In history and in journalism things are boiled down to their essence and the most simple thing,” Pearce said. “I’m afraid for him it’s the first governor and, I hope the only governor, convicted of a felony.”

Easley was convicted of the lowest level felony, but many observers and political insiders believe it's the headlines that people will remember.

Easley hearing third day wrap What will be Easley's legacy?

Easley entered an Alford plea to certifying a false campaign finance report, which is a felony offense.

In an Alford plea, a defendant pleads guilty, while maintaining his innocence, and admits it is in his best interest to take the plea deal because there is sufficient evidence to find him guilty.

Easley apologized for the erroneous financial reports, and he took responsibility for them.

Bob Hall, of Democracy North Carolina, argued that Easley’s punishment wasn’t severe enough.

“I think it was a puny punishment for all that we have seen him involved in,” Hall said.

Hall argued the former governor should be forced to pay off the $100,000 fine imposed against his campaign by the State Board of Elections.

Hall said Easley pleaded guilty to violating a law, which he actually didn't violate. Hall said historically campaign treasurers are held responsible for reports, not politicians. Hall thinks the totality of the accusations against Easley led to the plea, so he doubts it means prosecutors will now suddenly go after candidates with bad reports.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • chevybelair57sd Nov 26, 2010

    His legacy is he was a typical crooked politician, Thank goodness his knowing wife didn't stay at NC state to corrupt our children with the present corrupt political practices of todays America.

  • independentvoter3 Nov 26, 2010

    Relax all... Karma has a way of evening things out. Easely will get his just due in time.

  • renaizzanceman Nov 25, 2010

    Taint what? This is a load of horse-hockey. Thank you, the corrupt system of NC, for once again letting scum like this run and ruin the system.

  • blackdog06 Nov 25, 2010

    Gee, a plea could taint Easley's legacy. No, the $1,000 fine and no time, along with a slap on the wrist tainted him. Anybody else would have been nailed.

  • corey3rd Nov 24, 2010

    maybe they can name a public restroom after him?

  • truthmatterstome2 Nov 24, 2010

    For the most corrupt governor and administration in recent history, we get a guilty plea to a minor felony and a $1000 fine. So he may lose his license to practice law, he's still laughing all the way back to Southport or Baldhead Island. He probably got a ride on a helicopter, just to remind him of all the times he rode one home on Fridays. Yea, the buck stops with you, Mike. Remember, you told the Elections Board that nothing was done wrong...It just didn't happen! Sorry you can't face those of us who worked for you and tell us with a straight face that you aren't a crook. We knew you were "misguided", but never realized the extent you would go to take personal advantage of your office and power. Enjoy your retirement, write a book, learn how to tell the truth. MAN UP!

  • YoucanthandletheTRUTH Nov 24, 2010

    Taint his legacy? This makes me laugh!

  • theartistformerlyknownasspeedy Nov 24, 2010

    And this headline "taints" WRAL's reputation as a serious and partial reporter of the facts.

  • LL4U Nov 24, 2010

    The only reason the lottery passed was because the vote was planned on the day several key legislators who opposed the lottery would be absent and Beverly Perdue, then lt gov, cast the deciding vote!! It took 23 yrs before the corrupt Easley/Perdue team made it happen. Not anything to be too proud of. Hope you got your bags packed Bev - you're next.

  • Its me again Nov 24, 2010

    As for the lottery it's a sham. Passed by Jim Black and Gov. Easley both now are convicts.As for our kids and education I don't want the "State" raising mine just so the can indoctrinate them with Progressive policies. His wife will pay the fine and laugh all the way to the bank while we common folk are left holding the bill.