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Jim Black Scandal Prompts Ethics Concerns

Posted August 1, 2007

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— Even as Jim Black was sentenced on bribery charges, lobbyists and political activists worried about the ethical dilemmas created by the scandals surrounding the former House speaker.

In sentencing Black, Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens pointed to issue that political activist said worry them: power, influence and money.

"I think the federal government has taken care of taking away the power and taking away the influence," said Stephens. "So the purpose of my sentencing is to take away the money."

In testimony, Black publicly identified Don Beason as the lobbyist who gave him $500,000 in what Black called a personal loan for a business investment.

Black said the money was mistakenly deposited in his campaign account and that he paid it back.

Political activists said they are concerned precisely by such transactions as occurred between Black and Beason.

"It shows the power, the relationships, the dependence that legislators have on the men and women who lobby here (the General Assembly)," said Chris Fitzsimon, with the public-policy group N.C. Policy Watch.

Other lobbyists distanced themselves from the actions of Black and Beason.

"We as lobbyist are insulted by this kind of action," said Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, a group that does lobbying work for nonprofits.

Beason is regularly ranked among the state's most powerful lobbyists, representing clients including BB&T, BellSouth, the North Carolina Restaurant Association and the video poker industry.

Former political consultant Joe Sinsheimer said he expects the testimony given Tuesday will concern businesses that employ lobbyists to influence state legislation.

"It's going to put some pressure on these publicly traded corporations that hired Don Beason, companies like BB&T, about whether or not they want to employ someone that's clearly willing to bend, if not break, the law," said Sinsheimer.

Beason released a statement admitting that he made a loan to Black in 2000. He testified about the loan to a federal grand jury in Wake County in spring 2007, according to the statement.

"I recognize that making the loan was a serious error in judgment, and I deeply regret it," Beason said in the statement.

He said he is "truly sorry" to his clients, lobbyists, legislators and North Carolina citizens in the statement.

Fitzsimon said that the scandal should prompt more ethics reform in the state Legislature.

"I think it shows why we needed lobbying and ethics reform last year, and why there are still so many things that we need to fix," said Fitzsimon.

On Tuesday, lawmakers tweaked laws passed last year and opened up hearings of the Legislative Ethics Committee and the State Ethics Commission.

Some lobbyists said the Black scandal revealed flaws in the field.

"This shows the lobbying profession has some work to do to clean house," Hall said.

41 Comments

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  • richard2 Aug 1, 2007

    What they are concerned about is--------GETTING CAUGHT!

  • G-man Aug 1, 2007

    They got to be kiding. Does anyone trust any of those people?

  • yacs Aug 1, 2007

    twright, these are only guesses, but it could be because he's not in office anymore or because the story isn't about political/legislative activity. Not sure, though, and that's a good question.

  • twright530 Aug 1, 2007

    Why dosent WRAL identify Jim Black as a Democrat in this story.

  • twright530 Aug 1, 2007

    If there is no media temblate then wyy dosent

  • shep8851 Aug 1, 2007

    Ladyblue: Let clarify..I said "donations"--not one red cent goes to any candidate--they are legally barred from accepting donations, gifts, contributions, etc. Instead, any and all contributions, etc. would be sent to a federal elections board that would collect and hold all election campaign funds. At certain points in the campaign season, the feds. would divide up a portion of those funds collects among the acknowledged "leaders" in each race. The candidates could not spend one penny more than that given them. It would, I believe, insure that the best qualified person would win, as opposed to simply the one who can raise the most money. And, the winner would have no committments or obligations to any individual, company or corporation, PAC, labor unions--no one. Might help clean up this cess pool we call a government.

  • Z Man Aug 1, 2007

    Looks like Mr. Black has to study the odds and make a decision. He has to take into account the life expentency of himself given his genetics. If he has little to no chance of living through the 63 month federal sentence, then why pay the million? The judge should have siezed it.

  • Z Man Aug 1, 2007

    Yea right, the G'ment has been reforming ethics for at least the last century. They'll spend more money on a study, plan, etc. and still nothing will change.

  • papa jim Aug 1, 2007

    I would like to know who gets the 1,000,000 dollars if and when it's paid by Black and also I'd like to know what lobby will give that much money to Black

  • firstgenchevy Aug 1, 2007

    Just more proof that 90% of the gov is currupt. Here is the problem, Everyone has a price. If I had enough 0's on the end of a 1 in my bank, I could get anyone to do anything I wanted.

    That is our problem, very few people are left with any morals.

    Remeber... "morals are what you do when no one is looking"

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