Saturday, February 11, 2006

Jim Black & Decker Broke the Law

Here are just some of the headlines and spoilers about Jim Black

The News Observer

A top state elections official said Friday that House Speaker Jim Black or his campaign committee violated state elections laws.

Kim Strach, a deputy elections director who led the investigation into Black's campaign contributions, testified in front of the State Board of Elections that the violations include the campaign's acceptance of nearly $28,000 in illegal corporate contributions; accepting and giving campaign contributions beyond legal limits; and Black's transfer of three checks from optometrists to the campaign of a key ally, then-Rep. Michael Decker.

Black's lawyers denied any wrongdoing, and Black has said he believes he did not break any laws.

The Charlotte Observer

A top investigator for the State Board of Elections concluded Friday that House Speaker Jim Black's campaign violated state law by accepting contributions in excess of legal limits, by giving contributions in the name of another contributor and by accepting more than $27,000 in contributions from businesses.

Several of those violations involved actions by Black himself, the investigator said, including filling in the payee line on incomplete checks written by other optometrists.

The board, completing a third day of hearings at a Raleigh hotel conference room, did not immediately deal with the allegations. Black, 70, a Democrat, testified for two hours Thursday under bright television lights. He didn't attend the Friday hearing.

The News Observer

The State Board of Elections has referred to prosecutors what it called apparent criminal violations by former state Rep. Michael Decker and the leader of the state's optometry political action committee, Michael Scott Edwards.

The board delayed potential action on House Speaker Jim Black, saying its investigation of his role in possible campaign finance abuses is ongoing.

Earlier today, the deputy state elections director who investigated campaign donations to Black and Decker testified that both men's campaigns had committed election law violations.

Winston-Salem Journal

Former state Rep. Michael Decker took the Fifth Amendment yesterday, citing his right against self-incrimination as he declined to testify about campaign donations he got from optometrists after he switched parties in 2003 to help optometrist Jim Black remain speaker of the House.

"We have advised Rep. Decker ... to rest upon his Fifth Amendment rights," David Freedman, Decker's attorney, told Larry Leake, the chairman of the State Board of Elections after Leake called on Decker to testify. The elections board is investigating possible illegal donations from optometrists and the video-poker industry to the Black and Decker campaigns. A federal grand jury is also investigating, and several optometrists said they have been interviewed by the FBI and U.S. Treasury agents.

The News Observer

The state Board of Elections has done its duty well, so far, in holding hard-hitting hearings into questionable campaign financing by the political action committee of the state optometrists society. After three days of testimony, the board sent to the Wake County district attorney evidence that former state Rep. Michael Decker and M. Scott Edwards, head of the optometrists PAC, broke campaign finance laws in collecting, dispensing or pocketing large amounts of money. The money often involved checks on which the date and the recipient's name were left blank by the individual eyeglass doctors who wrote them.

Both men who now go under District Attorney Colin Willoughby's microscope are closely tied to state House Speaker Jim Black, himself a practicing optometrist. Four members of the Board of Elections (a fifth sat out the proceedings because of his own ties to Black) did not submit Black's name to Willoughby, despite evidence laid at the speaker's feet during the hearings.

The News Observer

Do you know of any other business that works this way? That was the question Charles Winfree, a member of the state Board of Elections, put to an optometrist yesterday. Other than the Mafia or a drug cartel, Winfree felt he needed to add. It's too bad he was referring to North Carolina's election system and a long-standing practice by optometrists of writing checks as political donations but leaving blank the date and name of the recipient.

Whether or not such a practice may run afoul of North Carolina's campaign finance laws is something the elections board will consider. But the sleaze factor is undeniable. It's all about dodging the rules that require the identities of those who make substantial campaign contributions to be disclosed.

The News Observer

House Speaker Jim Black said Thursday that he filled in the blanks on three campaign checks drawn on the accounts of fellow optometrists and made them payable to the man who kept him in power: then-Rep. Michael Decker.

In testimony before the State Board of Elections, which is investigating possible campaign-finance abuses, Black at first said he did not recall ever seeing a campaign check that was not completely filled in.

But after election officials showed him a $4,000 check made payable to Decker -- a check drawn on the account of M. Scott Edwards, a Murfreesboro optometrist who ran the profession's state political action committee -- Black identified the writing on the payee line as his own.

"I believe that's mine," said Black, a Democrat from Mecklenburg County.

The News Observer

Three of four State Board of Elections members said in interviews Thursday that they believe laws were broken as optometrists funneled money through middlemen, including House Speaker Jim Black, to favored legislators.

The board is expected to act today after hearing testimony this week detailing how optometrists broke large political pledges into small amounts and left it up to Black and others to direct the money to candidates.

Bob Cordle, a Charlotte lawyer and the fifth member of the elections board, has recused himself because of ties to Black.

posted by David at 10:46 PM :: Permalink ::

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