RALEIGH – The Civitas Institute filed an ethics complaint with the N.C. State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement Wednesday against Gov. Roy Cooper over his role in securing a $57.8 million “voluntary contribution” (slush fund) as part of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline deal, calling the fund “open-ended, unconstrained and rife with potential for abuse.”
“In our opinion, these matters rise to the level of a full ethics investigation. At the very least, we request the Commission issue an opinion on the ethics of the governor leveraging his official title and official position to exchange state approval of a major project for private funds that only the Governor can spend, even if the funds trickle into the accounts of his political supporters or indirectly aid in his re-election.”
How in the world did Roy Cooper ever think something like this would just fly under the radar?
While Cooper maintains that the permit for the ACP was not bought and paid for by the huge slush fund, one environmentalist Democrat lawmaker, Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) directly contradicted this in quotes provided to news outlets.
“I wasn’t involved in the negotiations, but I understand that that was part of the process. It wasn’t that they were paying $57 million or whatever it was to get the permit. It was just that that was a condition of getting the permit granted was the access to this fund that would try to undo some of the damage that was created by the pipeline…”
That little tidbit is detailed in the complaint alongside communications from the Cooper’s office that they had no intention of the legislature being involved with this fund in any way.
Further, the complaint points to the stated purposes of the fund as being environmental mitigation, economic development, and renewable energy development project along the pipeline route. This combines with news we covered here that Cooper and his family own hundreds of acres in Nash County within two miles of the pipeline route and already have some experience leasing land for renewable energy projects.
Moreover, the non-profits that would be eligible to receive grants from the slush fund cold be made up of groups that support Cooper politically.
“The Governor directing tens of millions of dollars to projects and initiatives these groups support is likely to grow their influence, their ability to raise funds, their supporter base – and likely their loyalty to Governor Cooper – before his reelection bid in 2020.”
The Cooper defense includes pointing to a similar fund created in Virginia, but the complaint by Civitas notes that the Virginia fund has strict and detailed specifics about how the fund will be spent, while Cooper’s slush fund is open ended and ripe for abuse.
Read the full complaint here. This should get interesting.