NCGA Panel Hires Private Firm to Investigate Cooper Pipeline ‘Pay to Play’ Scandal

RALEIGH – Democrats across North Carolina are quick to make ‘scandals’ out of anything Republicans do on Jones Street, warranted or not, but they have a big blind spot when it comes to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Cooper’s biggest scandal is arguably the Atlantic Coast Pipeline slush fund deal he arranged in an apparent ‘pay to play’ scheme as his administration approved key permits the pipeline required. Had this been a Republican engaging in such sketchy, self-serving activity, it would be front page news for months, with calls for resignation and jail time. It’s a Democrat, though, so it only gets the obligatory coverage, if that.

Well, a special panel was formed in the General Assembly to look into the deal and the possible corruption involved, and they’ve just hired private investigators to get to the bottom of it all.

“A team of former federal special agents with a rich background investigating public corruption and fraud will dig through documents and interview members of Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration to determine whether his $57.8 million Atlantic Coast Pipelinediscretionary fund was a political pay-to-play scheme.

“This matter is not a criminal matter so far as we know” from discussions with co-chairmen of the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations’ Atlantic Coast Pipeline subcommittee, Thomas Beers said during a Wednesday, Dec. 12, subcommittee meeting.

As the legislative panel introduced the investigators, lawmakers also discussed a pointed letter they got from Cooper demanding documents related to the pipeline probe. Legislators noted the irony of a governor demanding a form of transparency from the legislature he has not exercised himself.”

The whole reason lawmakers are hiring private investigators in the first place is because the Cooper administration has completely stonewalled them int heir quest for answers. His administration’s own refusal to provide documents and instructing Department heads to ‘No Show’ key committee hearings makes Cooper’s document demands pretty rich.

“I guess that’s the game we’re going to play,” Brown said about [Cooper chief of staff Kristi] Jones’ letter [demanding records].

We will of course honor a public records request. I hope the governor does the same in providing comprehensive and truthful responses to the questions and documents we’ve been requesting for nearly a year on this potential pay-to-play scandal,” Brown told Carolina Journal after the meeting. “His strategy has been to deny, delay, and distract, and that is unacceptable.”

Democrats on the panel actually had the audacity to question the costs to taxpayers for hiring private investigators with state funds, seemingly oblivious to the fact that none of it would be necessary if Cooper actually provided the answers and documentation the panel had been requesting. (Not to mention that Democrats, in general, have little concern over spending other people’s money on ineffective Big Government policies)

Hopefully the private firm is able to get to the bottom of this scandal quickly, but that requires a certain amount of cooperation from interview targets. At the very least, citizens of the Old North State on both sides of the aisle deserve to know if their governor dangled a permit approval in exchange for a $58 million slush fund to be controlled directly by the governor himself.

Read more from Carolina Journal, which originally broke the slush fund story, here.

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