Local Politics

Invitation to Controversy: Hackney, Other Lawmakers Linked to Felon

Posted February 1, 2008 6:31 p.m. EST
Updated February 1, 2008 6:59 p.m. EST

— Some of the state's top lawmakers, including House Speaker Joe Hackney, have been linked to a known felon on an invitation to a political fundraiser.

Bladen County businessman Ron Taylor was convicted in 1982 of accepting a bribe while he was serving in the state House. He also pleaded guilty to taking part in a conspiracy to set a rival's tobacco warehouses on fire.

"At the time, I think it was the biggest public corruption scandal in North Carolina's history, certainly in the 20th century," said Chris Fitzsimon, executive director of government watchdog group NC Policy Watch, who covered Taylor's trial as a reporter.

After serving four years in prison, Taylor ran an unsuccessful campaign to regain his seat in the General Assembly. But he remained politically active and is hosting a fundraiser next Thursday for state Rep. William Brisson, D-Bladen.

The names of Hackney, House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman and Rep. Dan Blue, D-Wake, are listed prominently on the invitation to the event – right under Taylor's name.

"It's a little troubling that, in this era of public mistrust of government and all the ethics scandals, that our leaders wouldn't be a little more careful about where their name is used," Fitzsimon said.

Brisson and Taylor couldn't be reached for comment.

Hackney issued a statement Friday to note that Brisson asked the House leadership to help with the fundraiser, but they were unaware of Taylor's involvement.

"Mr. Taylor has also chosen to support Rep. Brisson, but we have not spoken with him or anyone in his family about this event and we were not involved in the planning. We learned of the involvement of Mr. Taylor and his brother only after the invitations were printed," the statement said.

Hackney said he plans to uphold his promise and attend the fundraiser.