April 14, 1998
FEDERAL PROSECUTION SOUGHT FOR “CRIMES AGAINST DEMOCRACY”
A coalition of religious, environmental and public-interest leaders today chastised the state’s lax pursuit of “crimes against democracy” and called for federal officials to lead the investigation of charges leveled against House Speaker Harold Brubaker by the hog lobby, Farmers for Fairness.
In a letter sent to U.S. Attorney Janice Cole and other officials, the group described “a disturbing parallel in the weak enforcement of our environmental and our election laws” and said “the current scandal may shed light on how the two are intertwined.”
Associates of Brubaker and leaders of the hog lobby agree that, in a series of meetings, campaign money was solicited, offered, and given in the context of the hog and poultry industry’s desire for legislative relief from greater environmental regulation. But the two sides dispute whether a specific quid pro quo was promised and what amount of money was involved.
Pete MacDowell of Democracy South, the Chapel Hill watchdog group that prepared the letter, said signatures were gathered in a 30-hour period and are still coming in. They include leaders from Bertie to Buncombe to Brunswick counties, and leaders of such organizations as the N.C. Council of Churches, Clean Water Fund of N.C., Common Sense Foundation, Alliance for a Responsible Swine Industry, Sierra Club, NCOSH, and Concerned Citizens of Tillery.
The allegations involving campaign money traded for special favors come on the heels of an on-going investigation of road projects and appointments at the state Department of Transportation linked to political contributions. A local district attorney last week declined to prosecute a friend and political supporter who resigned from the Board of Transportation amid charges he profited from his post.
The letter sent today calls the current campaign finance system “a mess” and calls on Governor Hunt and legislative leaders to beef up funding for enforcement, shift responsibility for prosecution from local district attorneys to the Attorney General, restrict the flow of soft money, and enact a “Clean Money” source of funding for candidates who agree to limit spending and reject private donations.
The letter also points out that U.S. Senator Lauch Faircloth, a Sampson County hog producer, has assisted Farmers for Fairness, and it asks him to get the Federal Election Commission to investigate possible irregularities involved in contributions to federal committees solicited by Speaker Brubaker or made by donors tied to the hog lobby.
Nick Weaver, a Goldsboro Milling Company official and chair of Farmers for Fairness, testified that company executives gave Brubaker $5,000 in donations made payable, at Brubaker’s request, to the Republican National Committee. However, Democracy South could not find the donations listed in RNC reports, although Weaver’s says the cancelled checks show they were deposited.
“It’s one of the mysteries that makes us want a federal investigation of the entire mess,” said Pete MacDowell. “They have the resources, statutes, and experience. Our state officials should help ensure that a thorough and independent investigation begins as soon as possible.”