Under the Dome

Gov. McCrory appoints fundraisers to board after candidate McCrory vowed not to

During his first campaign for governor in 2008, Republican Pat McCrory hammered his opponent, Bev Perdue, on her ties to major Democratic Party fundraisers on the state Board of Transportation.

McCrory vowed repeatedly in 2008 that he would never appoint his campaign fundraisers to the transportation board if he was elected governor.

But that's what he did after he won the 2012 election.

Mike Smith, a Raleigh real estate executive, was sworn into office Thursday as one of Gov. McCrory's first 10 appointees to the transportation board. Smith reports on campaign disclosure forms that he personally collected $106,000 for McCrory's 2012 campaign. A second appointee, Wilmington lawyer Mike Lee, said he had rounded up $500 as a McCrory fundraiser.

"We should not give the appearance that someone gets an appointment because they've raised thousands upon thousands of dollars for a particular candidate. And there's no doubt that that's been the norm in state government for decades," McCrory said at a campaign ethics forum on Sept. 16, 2008.

"I want to take politics out of board work so there's not an appearance of a conflict of interest," McCrory said on Sept. 22, 2008.

Kim Genardo, the governor's communications director, said McCrory stands by his transportation appointments and his commitment to high ethical standards.

"The spirit of the governor's comments five years ago were to condemn unethical behavior on the state Board of Transportation, not to impede people's rights to participate in the democratic process," Genardo said Friday.

Back in 2008, McCrory attacked Perdue for her connection to Louis Sewell of Jacksonville, a major Democratic Party fundraiser forced to leave the Board of Transportation after he influenced DOT spending decisions that benefited his family businesses. McCrory was praised for his promise not to put his campaign fundraisers on the transportation board. That pledge was cited approvingly in newspaper editorials, including the Charlotte Observer's endorsement of his candidacy.

Contacted Friday, Smith said his long association with McCrory is "not a fundraising relationship."

"I've known Pat for over 20 years, and I think our character and principles speak for themselves," Smith said.

Smith recently reported his role as a big-dollar fundraiser for McCrory on campaign disclosure forms required by state law for all appointees to the transportation board.

The law requires the governor to submit the names of his appointees and their campaign disclosure forms to the legislature's Joint Transportation Oversight Committee, to give committee members 30 days to comment on the appointees.

McCrory did not do this.

He sent the information only to the House and Senate clerks, and to the Republican heads of both chambers. Some committee members complained that he should have done what his predecessors did, sending the appointees and their disclosure forms to each member of the oversight committee.

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