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Black's Situation Could Spur Campaign Finance Reform

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RALEIGH, N.C. — It was a touch of harsh irony as the state's House Select Government Reform Committee invited an expert from Wisconsin to talk about that state's model ethics reforms.

Despite the tougher laws, he conceded, the Badger State's former House Speaker had just been convicted in a corruption scandal.

On Thursday, the North Carolina State Board of Elections concluded that House Speaker Jim Black illegally accepted and gave campaign donations.

"We're going to tighten up and pass tougher law," said Rep. Rick Eddins (R)-Wake County. "But, if someone wants to break the law ... how do you stop them? You can't."

Lawmakers are pressing on as Black's alleged campaign finance indiscretions go to the district attorney.

"The more attention that's coming out of the trials and hearings, the more legislators are saying we need to take a look at this and fix some of these problems," said Chris Heagarty with the N.C. Center For Voter Education.

The committee is looking at restrictions on what lobbyists can give lawmakers and what lawmakers can do with their campaign money.

"The money chase in politics is one we have to address," said Rep. Joe Hackney, (D) Ethics Committee Chair.

Those checks with the blank payee lines that came up during the board of elections hearings are also up for abolition.

"We just think if you don't have them, you don't have the problem ... and that's a good thing," said Rep. Deborah Ross, (D)-Wake County.

When lawmakers return in May, they'll have a comprehensive package of ethics reforms to consider. The only question is what will pass.

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