The following editorial was published in the January 2012 issue of Carolina Journal:
We'll give Gov. Bev Perdue credit for operating a more open and transparent administration than her predecessor, Mike Easley. Then again, Easley set the bar so low that any unscripted interaction with the press or the public has been appreciated.
When it comes to allegations of finance violations by the governor's campaign, however, Perdue unfortunately has doffed a cone of silence.
The governor's longtime friend Trawick "Buzzy" Stubbs may be the last person who could offer a detailed accounting of the "aircraft provider" program he helped devise for Perdue's 2008 campaign. If Stubbs maintains silence, the public may never know how the flights were arranged, what was expected of the people who provided free travel, and what the aircraft providers hoped for (and received) from the Perdue administration.
Stubbs was the law partner of Perdue's late former husband. He's one of three people named in a 2010 investigation by the State Board of Elections with knowledge of the aircraft provider program. The board fined the campaign $30,000 for flights that were reported late or not at all.
A second person named by the board, Greensboro businessman Peter Reichard, in December accepted a felony plea for using a business he owned to launder campaign contributions from a donor to help pay the salary of campaign staffer Juleigh Sitton. Sitton, a Morganton attorney, later ran Perdue's western North Carolina office. She also was indicted in this scheme.
Reichard's attorney says his client will grant no interviews on the matter.
The third person with intimate knowledge of the aircraft provider program, according to the elections board report, is the governor herself.
In the report, former Perdue campaign fund raiser Gardner Payne said that in 2006, he was told by then-Lt. Gov. Perdue that Reichard and Stubbs were working to "obtain aircraft providers" for Perdue's 2008 campaign.
Perdue has refused to identify who else was involved with the program, or to distance herself from them. "If you were mentioned by the elections board or were found guilty by the elections board it might be one thing," she said in December 2010. "I don't know that because the press has written something about you that you have been proved of doing something wrong."
You'd think Perdue would distance herself fully from the people who participated in illegal fundraising schemes. At a minimum, she'd want to prevent a recurrence of lawbreaking and steer clear of shady donors.
Instead, the governor has shown a remarkable lack of curiosity about what happened. So much for transparency.