RALEIGH — When I inaugurated the Carolina Journal Online “Tinfoil Hat Award” last week, I really expected to put some distance between announcements of its conspiracy-minded recipients. After all, each of the lucky honorees deserves plenty of time to bask in his or her own place in the sun — or at least somewhere kind of hot — before being supplanted by the next one.
That was my intention, anyway, but U.S. Rep. Frank Ballance has made it simply impossible for me to follow through on it. In defending himself and his state-funded nonprofit organization Wednesday against swirling charges of mismanagement, conflict of interest, and violations of law — and specifically against a demand by state GOP chairman Ferrell Blount that the congressman resign — Ballance finally ended months of clumsy defenses and zeroed in on what he said was the underlying truth about his predicament: it’s a dastardly plot against him by conservative North Carolina Republicans.
One might be tempted to forgive the former state senator for coming to this conclusion. I mean, there are a lot of odd coincidences here. The individuals and institutions who have had a role in uncovering the various aspects of the John Hyman Foundation affair obviously share a common partisan and ideological agenda. There’s Littleton Observer publisher Hal Sharpe, a former Republican candidate for Congress himself. He started the ball rolling in his weekly newspaper by checking into reports that Ballance’s Hyman Foundation wasn’t doing much to justify its annual state appropriation.
There’s Carolina Journal and the John Locke Foundation, obvious Republican tools (just ask Richard Morgan and Harold Brubaker), who have stoked the scandal fires around Ballance with little more than shaky claims and slimy innuendoes.
There’s The News & Observer of Raleigh, another partisan outfit (didn’t it begin its life as a Republican newsletter?), that uncovered the conflicts of interest inherent in Hyman Foundation director Eddie Lawrence’s simultaneous work as a state employee and pastor of the church that deserved as Hyman’s landlord. Let’s face it, the N&O‘s been in the tank for the GOP ever since former employee Jesse Helms was elected to the U.S. Senate.
There’s State Auditor Ralph Campbell, the well-known conservative Republican. His partisan, Ashcroft/Starr-like witchhunt and recently released audit have given Ballance’s critics a great deal of conveniently useful ammunition.
There’s conservative Republican Attorney Gen. Roy Cooper, who has abused his authority by threatening legal action if Ballance takes any action with the Hyman Foundation that might preclude the state from eventually getting back the state tax dollars that Cooper’s fellow GOP hatchetman Campbell says have been inappropriately shifted to a foundation savings account.
There’s the right-wing newspapers in Wilson, Wilmington, Rocky Mount, Durham, Roanoke Rapids, Elizabeth City, Warrenton, and elsewhere that have chased portions of the Ballance/Hyman story or excoriated Ballance for ethical transgressions in editorials. One paper tagged him as “chiseling” the taxpayers. Another called for his resignation. Each and every one is owned and operated by partisan Republican hacks taking their orders from media magnate Ferrell Blount.
Given that so many conservative Republicans were evidently in on the effort to investigate the Hyman Foundation and hold officials accountable for its transgressions, it wasn’t too much of a stretch for Ballance to jump to the conclusion that he did, that the North Carolina GOP was behind it all along.
So does he really deserves our second Tinfoil Hat Award? Yes, though I admit it’s a close call. But Ballance’s alleged conspiracy still qualifies for the honor since he either failed to admit or does not understand the real truth behind the affair. He still claims to be under the delusion that North Carolina Republicans were out to get him. But any sane person would immediately recognize that this state’s GOP establishment is simply too divided and feckless to have been able to carry out such an elaborate plan.
The truth is that the 1st Congressional District is famous outside North Carolina as the most fertile ground in the country for Republicans to pick up another seat in the U.S. House. The powers-that-be orchestrated the entire Hyman affair just to clear the way for a Republican nominee to win the district, as surely he or she will at the next available opportunity (never mind the overwhelmingly Democratic registration and voting behavior). For anyone truly paying attention, the fingerprints of one man are unmistakably evident here. I’m talking about the arch-conservative who controls the FBI and plants false stories and really calls the shots in Washington, D.C.
Yes, it was Karl Rove all along.
Frank Ballance wins the Tinfoil Hat Award for inventing a grandiose lie about a North Carolina Republican plot against him — when all he had to do was recognize the obvious truth that he was the victim of a national Republican plot against him. How pathetic.
Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation and publisher of Carolina Journal.