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State Senator, Ag Commissioner's Father Has Harsh Words For Gov. Easley

Posted May 15, 2003

— Gov. Mike Easley wants State Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps out of office because of a lingering campaign finance scandal, but Phipps refuses to step down. Now, the matter is getting personal.

On Thursday, state Sen. Hugh Webster called on Easley to resign. Webster said in a letter that he is upset with how Easley has handled the Phipps' situation and told the governor he should let the people decide whether they want to rehire Phipps.

Former Gov. Bob Scott also stands behind his daughter's decision. He said Easley did not elect her and has no right to call for her resignation. Scott told the

Ashville Citizen-Times

he wishes he were healthier so he could challenge Easley in 2004. According to the newspaper, he said, "I'd love to take him on and I could beat his a**."

Scott played an integral role in his daughter's 2000 campaign. The Scott family has a long storied history in North Carolina government. Kerr Scott, Phipps' grandfather, served as governor and U.S. senator in the late 40s and 50s and her father, Bob Scott, became governor in 1969.

The State Board of Elections made clear last year that the Phipps campaign did not play by modern rules. Bobby McLamb and Linda Saunders, two of Phipps' former aides, recently pleaded guilty to extortion related to Phipps' election campaign. Phipps is currently being investigated for campaign finances during the 2000 election. Political experts say in the old days, campaign finance had a very different meaning.

"There were no limitations, no reporting laws. You could take as much money as anyone would offer," political consultant Jack Hawke said.

Hawke said it was not until the Watergate scandal did campaign finance reporting laws emerge in North Carolina.

"It's a different ballgame," said Thad Beyle, a poltical science professor at UNC. "Maybe some of the things that she may have seen or heard in those good old days are no longer allowed."

Easley dismissed Webster's call for his resignation, saying the senator is simply playing politics.

Phipps, who is still conducting business in western North Carolina, admits she made some poor management decisions, but she continues to maintain her innocence.


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