RALEIGH – If you give him an inch, he’ll take a mile. Such is the case with Gov. Roy Cooper with respect to House Bill 1029, legislation passed with bipartisan support to revert to the old Board of Elections structure that actually allows the governor to retain almost all of his control over the Board.
The legislation was essentially a forfeit by Republicans, who had tried doggedly to implement significant (and needed) reforms at the State Board of Elections, to make them truly bipartisan and eliminate the ability for partisan shenanigans to infect civic duties. First the Republicans were rebuffed in courts (multiple times), rightly or wrongly, and followed with a proposed Constitutional Amendment that was rejected by the majority of voters statewide.
Abandoning the legal and political battles over control of the Board’s structure would have done well in removing distractions during high profile election fraud investigations. However, Cooper cannot allow himself to be seen agreeing with Republicans on anything, even bipartisan efforts.
The Democrat-in-Chief is threatening to veto the bill, while not actually doing it, which extends the massive state of uncertainty around the current Board and when their judical clock will run out. All because the bill puts new parameters around campaign finance investigations that threaten his ability to use such processes as political weapons.
“Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday, Dec. 18 he would veto a bill returning the Bipartisan Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement to separate agencies over concerns about a provision related to campaign finance investigations. But he would wait to issue the veto, hoping the legislature will pass a new version of the bill removing the provision.
During a news conference, Cooper said House Bill 1029 makes it more difficult to investigate campaign-finance complaints. He said the bill aims to obscure the truth.
“This bill makes it harder to root out corruption in elections and campaign finance,” Cooper said. “This bill was a rush job that at first glance is an improvement.”
H.B. 1029, a conference report that essentially turned back the clock on the Bipartisan Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, was introduced to comply with the court’s ruling. Not only does the bill return the two boards to their 2016 makeup and grant the governor majority appointment power, H.B. 1029 calls for a new filing period and a primary if the State Board of Elections orders a new election in the 9th Congressional District. The current elections board is investigating alleged absentee ballot irregularities in the 9th District, which may lead the board to order a new election.
Cooper didn’t object to these aspects of H.B. 1029. But, he said, Section 4 of the bill goes awry. Section 4 would make investigations into alleged campaign finance violations confidential and place a four-year statute of limitations on investigations.”
Soon after Cooper’s press conference, the office of Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, accused the governor of trying to weaponize the state election boards’ investigatory power.
“The legislature will not allow the governor to use the partisan Board of Elections as a blunt instrument to hammer his political adversaries,” Patrick Ryan, a spokesman for Berger, wrote in an emailed statement. “Governor Cooper’s failure to act is holding the entire Board of Elections hostage, including the NC-9 investigation, in his effort to achieve unchecked power to launch corrupt and unfounded partisan attacks on legislators.””
Cooper says he simply wants Section 4 removed, also known as merely wanting Republicans to turn their heads so he can abuse investigatory powers of the Board of Elections to punish political opponents. While H.B. 1029 may have been the right move to make considering the current environment, throwing Gov. Eudy….err..Gov. Cooper a bone only gives him a stick to beat you with.
Read more about the bill here.