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Conti defends Wilson bridge

In one of his last public acts as state transportation secretary in the waning days of Gov. Bev Perdue's administration, Gene Conti went to Wilmington on Dec. 8 to preside over a bridge-naming ceremony in honor of Lanny Wilson, a Democratic Party fundraiser who was forced to resign from the state Board of Transportation in 2010 amid state and federal investigations that brought down Perdue's predecessor, former Gov. Mike Easley.

Conti defended Wilson amid criticism that he didn't deserve the honor because of his role in the events that led to former Gov. Mike Easley's felony conviction on a campaign finance charge.

Who wants to know?

Every day, scores of motorists heading to downtown Raleigh look up and say to themselves, "What is the question?"

That's because the N.C. Republican Party spent $1,400 on a billboard on southbound Capital Boulevard that reads: "Answer the question BEV."

The party put up the sign for a month. It's part of a concerted effort to tar Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue with the same type of ethical and legal issues that have been swirling around her predecessor, Democrat Mike Easley.

So far, the party's efforts have been focused on news conferences. The billboard is a new front, although it's unclear how effective it has been since most people have no idea what it means.

Party Chairman Tom Fetzer said the billboard refers to a series of questions that essentially ask whether Perdue's campaign engaged in practices meant to skirt campaign finance law.

The questions, Fetzer said, include whether Perdue asked Wilmington financier and N.C. Board of Transportation member Lanny Wilson to give money to the N.C. Democratic Party with the understanding that the money would be funneled back to Perdue. Wilson, in an elections board hearing on Easley's campaign, testified that he funneled money through the party for Easley.

The questions further ask if Perdue's former chief of staff, Zach Ambrose, announced his decision to leave Perdue's office because of what Fetzer said were Ambrose's close ties to Wilson. Ambrose announced his departure on the same day Wilson quit the transportation board, which was also the day a federal indictment against former Easley aide Ruffin Poole became public. Wilson's dealings with Poole figured prominently in the indictment.

When asked by Dome to produce evidence supporting the allegations against Ambrose, Fetzer declined.

A spokesman for Perdue's campaign said the allegations were absolutely false.

"Fetzer continues to use this campaign of innuendo to draw associations. It's like McCarthyism," said Marc Farinella, a spokesman for Perdue's campaign. "Nothing like that transpired, and Fetzer should be embarrassed that he would malign somebody without a shred of evidence to back it up."

When reached Thursday, Ambrose, who was also Perdue's campaign manager, said: "There's no truth to any of that. It's hogwash."

The tainted cash campaign begins

Republicans have made the first of what likely will be many calls for Democrats to cough up tainted cash.

Will Breazeale, a Republican candidate for the 7th congressional district seat held by U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre (right), a Democrat, has said McIntyre should give back $13,000 from donors connected to the scandals surrounding former Gov. Mike Easley, the Wilmington Star-News reports.

Breazeale said McIntyre should return money from Wilmington financier Lanny Wilson and his wife, Linda, as well as Wilmington developer Nick Garrett.

Wilson was a fundraiser for and contributor to Easley and Gov. Bev Perdue, and he featured prominently in last month's indictment of former Easley aide Ruffin Poole. He resigned from the state board of transportation after the indictment, but he has not been charged with any crimes. 

Garrett remodeled Easley's home in Southport, was involved in a controversial deal over managing the state marina there and helped organize a push for Easley's administration to speed up permits for developers. He was at the federal courthouse in Raleigh when a grand jury investigating Easley was asking questions about the marina deal.

Fill in the (indictment) blank, part II

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

The indictment of Ruffin Poole, a top aide to former Gov. Mike Easley, contains yet another vague entry for which Dome could use readers' help. The document describes the expensive 2005 bachelor party for Poole largely funded by Wilmington financier and Democratic contributor Lanny Wilson.

It says Wilson, who recently resigned from the state board of transportation, paid for the $12,000 chartered jet and French Quarter hotel room, as well as "some other expenses."

Dome invites readers to help answer what those expenses were, such as: A Muffuletta at Central Grocery, cover charge for Preservation Hall, tips to the sidewalk performers, 12-pack of beads, 64-oz. beer to go or a Saints souvenir.

Who ya gonna call?

Former Gov. Mike Easley makes several cameo appearances in former aide Ruffin Poole's recent federal indictment, but none is as intriguing as a single quotation.

The indictment describes Easley telling Wilmington contributor and recently-resigned-board of transportation member Lanny Wilson: "If you need something, talk to Ruffin."

(Wilson is not named, but descriptive elements in the indictment make his identity clear.)

The question, which Dome invites readers to answer, is what did Wilson say to Easley that elicited this response? Examples: "Governor, where can you can get a good barbecue sandwich in Raleigh?" or "When you were puttin' in that new toilet, did you use the standard flapper valve?"

Dome Memo: 20/20 and split opinions

TIRED OF THIS YET? Details of Andrew Young's tell-all book about his former boss John Edwards have started to trickle out. New revelations include that Edwards hated having to mix with regular people and that he wanted his mistress to have an abortion. Some day, the hits to Edwards' reputation will end. Until then, Young is scheduled to appear tonight on ABC's 20/20.

BOOZE BIZ: A new poll says residents are divided on whether to privatize the state’s troubled system for selling liquor. A Civitas poll found that 57 percent of Baptists want to keep the ABC system, while 66 percent of Catholics favor privatization.

OUTRANKED: The state's stimulus Web site ranks low on a list judging the states' sites. Maybe some stimulus funds could get the site up to snuff.

IN OTHER NEWS: Lanny Wilson, the Wilmington financier who figures in the federal investigation into former Gov. Mike Easley, quit his influential seat on the N.C. Turnpike Authority. The state's Medicaid spending is running as much as $250 million over budget.

Dome Memo: The Money Man

DOUBLE DUTY: Karl Rove came to town this week to raise money for U.S. Sen. Richard Burr. Democrats seeking the nomination set about using Rove to raise a little money of their own. So Rove's visit was a productive trip all around.

OUTRANKED: The state's stimulus Web site ranks low on a list judging the states' sites. Maybe some stimulus funds could get the site up to snuff.

TIRED OF THIS YET? Details of Andrew Young's tell-all book about his former boss John Edwards have started to trickle out. New revalations include that Edwards hated having to mix with regular people and that he wanted his mistress to have an abortion. Some day, the hits to Edwards' reputation will end. Until then, Young is scheduled to appear tonight on ABC's 20/20.

IN OTHER NEWS: Lanny Wilson, the Wilmington financier who figures in the federal investigation into former Gov. Mike Easley, quit his influential seat on the N.C. Turnpike Authority. The state's Medicaid spending is running as much as $250 million over budget. A new poll says the state's residents are divided on whether to privatize the state's troubled system for selling liquor.

Wilson resigns turnpike seat

Lanny Wilson, a Wilmington developer and lawyer who resigned last week from the State Board of Transportation, notified the N.C. Turnpike Authority today that he also has given up his seat on that board, report Bruce Siceloff and J. Andrew Curliss. 

Wilson was a key money man for the campaigns of former Gov. Mike Easley and Gov. Bev Perdue, and was a prominent part of the indictment issued last week against Easley aide Ruffin Poole.

The indictment said Wilson helped Poole to invest in developments that Poole was also taking official actions to help.

Wilson had testified in a State Board of Elections hearing that he gave large checks to the Democratic Party that he expected would be in turn given to Easley's campaign. Funneling the money in that way would violate the limits on donations to individual candidates.

"Just a quick email to advise you that I have submitted my resignation to the appropriate people in Senator Basnight's office," Wilson said today in e-mail to David Joyner, the turnpike authority's executive director.

Feds: Poole took trips, liquor, cash

FEDS PULL TRIGGER: Ruffin Poole, a longtime senior aide to former Gov. Mike Easley, corrupted his office by taking trips, liquor, money and other gifts from people he helped with state government action, a federal grand jury charged Thursday.

In a wide-ranging indictment, Poole was charged with 51 counts that include extortion, bribery, racketeering, fraud, money laundering and engaging in transactions in "criminally derived" property. Many of the charges in the indictment from the grand jury flow from Poole's interference in environmental permits, in some cases for projects in which he had invested. (N&O)

EDWARDS OUT: On the day he acknowledged fathering a child with his mistress, John Edwards said through a spokeswoman that he has no intentions to return to public life. (N&O)

GOP BOOSTED BY RULING: The Supreme Court's decision to wipe out most campaign spending limits, coming on top of the Massachusetts Senate upset, may deal a major blow to Democrats and boost Republicans in the November congressional elections. (Tribune)

Wilson resigns from DOT board

Lanny Wilson, the fundraiser and developer who was once on the short list to run the state transportation department, has resigned his position on the transportation board.

Wilson, a Wilmington developer and lawyer, was a key money man for the campaigns of former Gov. Mike Easley and Gov. Bev Perdue. He was unknown to many in North Carolina, until he testified in a State Board of Elections hearing that he gave large checks to the Democratic Party that he expected would be in turn given to Easley's campaign.

Such funneling would violate limits on donations to individual candidates. Wilson was the main financial backer of several coastal developments, including the Cannonsgate development where Easley bought a lot at a six-figure discount.

"After much consideration and thought, I am stepping down to avoid any further unnecessary distractions that would only serve to impede the progress of your reform efforts with the Board and Department of Transportation," Wilson wrote.

Buzz around that state when Perdue was picking her cabinet was that Wilson was on the short list. Senate leader Marc Basnight advocated for Wilson, saying that Wilson raised money for campaigns because he genuinely cared about North Carolina.

"Lanny has so much to give this state. He's smart and he understands the department very well. I believe he could reorganize the department in a fashion that we would get much more out for our money," Basnight said.

Perdue accepted the resignation and thanked Wilson for his service.

Update 3:20pm:  The governor now will be responsible for picking Wilson's successor to represent Division 3, which includes New Hanover and five other southeastern counties.

Wilson has not resigned his seat as vice chairman of the N.C. Turnpike Authority, to which he was appointed by Basnight.  Wilson has been a champion of one of the Turnpike Authority's pending projects, the $1.3 billion Cape Fear Skyway in Wilmington. He participated by telephone in the turnpike board's monthly meeting Wednesday. 



Document(s):
Wilson Lanny Resignation.pdf
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