RALEIGH – While Gov. Roy Cooper and his attorneys have yet to provide answers to questions posed by the N.C. General Assembly regarding the genesis of his $58 million slush fund as part of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline deal, he has sent his adviser Ken Eudy to give details to a friendly media outlet in an effort to spin the story in as positive a light as possible.
Instead of providing clarity, Eudy’s statements to WRAL merely raise more concerns about Cooper’s bitter partisanship and disregard for the constitution.
“Draft versions of the memorandum of understanding laying out terms for the mitigation fund show changes handwritten in the margins by William McKinney, Cooper’s in-house attorney, as the deal was worked up in December and January.
Instead of the money flowing to the state, it would go into an escrow fund designated by the governor. Repeated references to “the state of North Carolina” were edited to “the governor of the state of North Carolina.”
The reason? Cooper and his administration don’t trust the Republican-controlled General Assembly.”
How’s that for partisanship? Cooper and his cronies ignored clearly defined separation of powers laid out in the North Carolina Constitution so he could keep the slush fund under his direct influence, because he didn’t ‘trust’ the Republicans on Jones Street would spend the money in ways that would benefit the governor politically.
Is this supposed to make anyone feel better about this corruption?
“Eudy said last week that the administration team “had it in our heads” how the fund would actually work. But officials didn’t put the board of experts, or other details, in writing. Their pitch boiled down to “trust us” as Republicans pointed to a memorandum of understanding giving the governor total control of the fund.
That the mitigation fund was announced the same day as a key state permit approval for the project also raised questions of a quid pro quo, which Cooper and his team have repeatedly denied.
“In hindsight, we should have had more structure in the process,” Cooper said last week. “Clearly, we were going to put that structure in place when the fund arrived, but remember, we’re talking about a fund that hasn’t even been funded yet.”
So, “trust us” even though we don’t trust you.
Structures and protocols for dispensing of state funds are in place exactly because trust is simply not enough when it comes to governance. Checks and balances are instituted for a reason. Cooper thinks those checks and balances are unnecessary, apparently, when they serve to upset his plans for raising and shelling out a $58 million slush fund.
The lengthy story on the details of the deal, and reactions among interested parties to the political controversy, paint the fund as an economic development necessity that the legislature has disrupted with it’s bill to allocate any of those funds to area school districts.
Much of the fund was reportedly going to facilitate ‘last mile’ gas connections for farms and businesses along the route.
Now, Durwood Stephenson, a developer involved in the pipeline talks with Duke Energy and Dominion Resources, says the fund could be split among multiple priorities, but that they want the legislature to make up the difference.
“Stephenson said he’s talked to “an awful lot of General Assembly members from the east” who share his concerns about access to the gas.
It’s possible half of the pipeline fund could go to schools and half to the revolving fund, but that won’t be enough, he said.
“We’re asking (the legislature) to put up the balance,” he said.”
That means the taxpayers.
What obligations do taxpayers across the state have to pay for natural gas access infrastructure for these particular businesses? The answer should be, ‘none’.
The more Cooper and his team try to explain away the inherent corruption of going over the legislature to secure this slush fund, the more they dig their hole deeper.
The General Assembly should subpoena Cooper and other slush fund actors to compel answers to questions they asked weeks ago, and remind Cooper of key parts of the constitution that he swore to defend when he took is oath of office.
Read more on the whole fiasco here.