McCrory Keeps Defending Ethics With Dalton Attacks
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Like the old battery commercial, Republican gubernatorial nominee Pat McCrory has put his record of ethics in politics and at work on his shoulder and dared anybody to knock it off.
"I have 14 years of being a mayor without one question about my ethical integrity," McCrory said last spring in an interview with The Associated Press. He told the AP again in September: "I have never had any serious accusation directed toward me questioning my ethical standards."
So Democrat Walter Dalton's team accepted with vigor the challenge to locate ethical stains that would reduce the comfort voters have with the former Charlotte mayor and 2008 gubernatorial runner-up.
The lieutenant governor and his allies have talked regularly about McCrory's failure to release his tax returns and allegations he connived with corporations while mayor and later working at a Charlotte law firm. There's also been a new wrinkle from Dalton by criticizing McCrory's city council vote 18 years ago for a project that appears to have benefited his former employer at the expense of a landowner.
"When the choice came, he represented the special interest," Dalton said last week.
McCrory has dismissed the accusations as desperate measures by Dalton - who has acknowledged he's trailing in the race. "This really amounts to throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing whether it would stick," McCrory spokesman Brian Nick said this week. His campaign suggests Dalton has his own ethical foibles.
As the candidates' third and final TV debate concluded Wednesday evening, any spot on McCrory's record - voters will decide if it's real or phony - hasn't yet succeeded in turning the governor's race on its head.
"The ultimate measure is whether or not we see the polls moving and we just haven't seen much tightening in the race," Wake Forest University political science professor John Dinan said. McCrory may have inoculated himself because he already ran for governor in 2008 and wasn't attacked on ethics, he added.
A group backed in part by the Democratic Governors Association ran commercials in May questioning McCrory's interaction as mayor with Charlotte businesses, including Duke Energy, where he worked until 2008, and Tree.com, where he's been a board member. Dalton used the TV debates this month to suggest McCrory is hiding something because he neither will talk specifics about his work at the Moore & Van Allen law firm nor release his tax returns.
McCrory said he won't release his returns as a matter of privacy and principle and that he's complied with required economic disclosure filings as a candidate. McCrory isn't a lawyer but is director of strategic initiatives at the law firm. McCrory gave perhaps his most detailed explanation to date of his work at Wednesday's debate in Rocky Mount.
Dalton wasn't satisfied: "So what's he doing with that law firm? Are the clients lining up at the door ... what promises are being made? That's important."
Dalton surprised McCrory earlier this month by going back to McCrory's time as mayor pro tempore of Charlotte to raise conflict-of-interest questions.
McCrory and other city council members voted in September 1994 to condemn and acquire farm land so a pipeline could be laid linking Lake Norman and a new water treatment plant in north Mecklenburg County. Such projects sometimes only require a land easement, rather than taking title of the property.
Court documents say evidence indicated the condemnation permitted the water treatment plant to purchase power from what was then Duke Power at a lower rate. The farm owners and another utility challenged the condemnation, but in 1998 the state Supreme Court upheld the city's decision.
The court's majority and dissenting opinions mentioned McCrory by referring to the "mayor pro tem" as a Duke employee who voted for the condemnation.
McCrory signed a 1995 affidavit saying he would have not participated in the council meeting had he been made aware Duke had interest in the condemnation. But then-Associate Justice John Webb wrote in the majority opinion "there was some evidence that (McCrory) knew Duke was involved."
McCrory "talks about a track record, the North Carolina Supreme Court questioned his veracity on an affidavit, I will tell you that,'" Dalton said Wednesday.
Emails show McCrory and fellow city council member and Duke employee Ella Scarborough, a Democrat, were made aware of the right-of-way issue involving the company six months before the vote.
When Dalton first unearthed the issue last week, McCrory told reporters he had "no idea" what Dalton was talking about and that "everything we did was transparent."
But it's been important enough, however, for McCrory's camp to address in specifics.
McCrory said Wednesday he and Scarborough both regularly recused themselves from voting on Duke Power issues and called their votes "inadvertent."
McCrory stands by the 1995 affidavit, his campaign said Thursday, because the vote came months after contact with a Duke official on an indistinct land deal. The condemnation resolution and detailed council minutes made no reference to Duke.
The council's condemnation vote was 9-2, so McCrory said their votes wouldn't have changed the outcome had they recused themselves.
"I voted hundreds upon hundreds of times," McCrory said while downplaying the issue with reporters. "This was 18 years ago and one of many votes that night. I think it's much ado about nothing."