State Board of Elections Settles Hog Trial
Posted May 29, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH — A controversy that pitted the state's top political leaders against the state's top pork producers ended on Saturday.
Farmers for Fairness accused House Republican leaders of increasing hog regulations when farmers did not contribute enough money for the 1996 elections.
For every allegation, Representative Richard Morgan had an answer. "Absolutely not!" "No sir!" "That's a falsehood." "That's a lie." "No sir!"
Morgan, who wrote the bill that increased hog regulations, ended the four day hearing. Farmers for Fairness, the state's largest coalition of pork producers, accused House Republican leaders of influence-peddling.
However, Morgan stated that the bill was merely a response to a local problem, and not a result of farmers failing to contribute money. Without any concrete evidence, the trial came down to a matter of he said-he said. "I handed him, as I referred in the paper, a fist full of bills," Farmer Melvin Purvis said. "He said, please back off this legislation. We'll do anything," Morgan said. "He told a reporter I was a liar, I'd like to tell this panel he's a liar," Purvis said.
In the end, the State Board of Elections cleared the House Republicans of any wrongdoing.
"Now I'm ready to get down to business," Morgan said.
"We're not surprised at all with the ruling," Farmers for Fairness attorney Joe Cheshire said. "The difficulty here for our clients is the difficulty between the implicit and the explicit requests for campaign contributions. The insulation of politicians from their fundraisers."
The board did rule that a fund controlled by House Speaker Harold Brubaker's aides violated state law in the way it accepted soft money contributions. The board immediately changed the requirements for soft money sent from national parties to state parties.
The bottom line is that the state board of elections wants to make sure all corporate contributions made to any national political party do not get funneled back into North Carolina.
The new rules went into effect Saturday, and require that any soft money from national parties must come from marked accounts, so that those contributions can be traced.