RALEIGH – More details emerged late Thursday regarding powerful N.C. House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) suddenly resigning and pleading guilty to federal charges of corruption. The scandal centers on Lewis executing a scheme to deposit donor money in personal bank accounts in order to pay off mounting debts held by his family farm.
First, the news of Lewis’s indictment and apparent plea deal with federal prosecutors came on the heels of the conclusion of another campaign money scandal involving the former NCGOP chairman, a billionaire megadonor, and others. Former NCGOP chairman Robin Hayes was sentenced to probation for his role in a bribery case in which megadonor Greg Lindberg and others schemed to bribe Republican Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey.
Causey became the hero in that scandal, working with the FBI to hold the bad actors accountable. Lindberg was just sentenced to more than seven years in prison. Another bad actor and businessman, Steven Gray, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in the bribery, and his story connects back to Lewis.
Lewis is a farmer. According to the statement released by a Lewis spokesman (and despite the ignorant opinion of Michael Bloomberg), farming is hard. It has been especially so for the Lewis farm over the last five or six years, and the financial burden piled up. At one point, according to reports, the aforementioned Gray gave Lewis a loan of $500,000 that he didn’t collect on when it came do.
It might have been the feds investigation of Gray that pinned Lewis, as it was those same personal financial farming struggles that are behind the the federal indictment. Lewis raised money from donors under the pretense that he was raising it for the NCGOP. He then set up a personal bank account named ‘NCGOP Inc’ and wrote a check from the campaign account, to this not-so-cleverly-named personal account, totaling $65,000. He then used that money to pay a landlord and other debts, apparently.
While Lewis reportedly wrote a check to the NCGOP for the same amount, presumably to make up for and cover up the scheme, but the crime had already been committed.
In a statement Lewis said “These are my mistakes, and my mistakes alone. I am very sorry for these mistakes, and I apologize.”
Unfortunately, in the world of partisan politics, these “mistakes” become a tool wielded gleefully by the Left to smear all of the the NCGOP and all other Republican politicians. The same was true of the Robin Hayes, Greg Lindberg bribery scandal. It makes all the political sense in the world to paint with this broad brush, and Republicans would have done the same if the scenario were reversed.
After being elected to majorities in 2010, Republicans led a decade of reforms that lowered taxes, streamlined regulations, and, to an extent, defended North Carolina citizens against the crazy policies of the Left. It’s an absolute shame that the foolish and unethical actions of leading Republicans like Hayes and Lewis will now serve to tarnish the entirety of those policy accomplishments and the Republican brand generally.
This brings the importance of integrity in leadership into full relief.
It is especially frustrating for principled public servants and of conservative, Constitutonal, liberty principles, to have such men stain virtuous ideas with their corrupt actions. There are also a lot of ‘I told ya so’s among grassroots conservatives that have been just as enamored with the ‘Establishment’ Republicans on Jones Street as they have been with the ‘Establishment’ GOP in D.C., otherwise known as The Swamp.
If there is any silver lining to be found here, it is that it offers an opportunity for the Republican majority — those in leadership and rank and file members — to BE rather than to SEEM. Especially in 2020, they need to BE the kind of representatives that eschew vice and actually fight hard for the virtuous ideas that unite the Party under a banner of liberty, not just SEEM like it until the Feds comes sniffing around.
Over the last 10 years of the Republican majority, with all of the good that has come from it, there has still been far too much pretending to be different while actually perpetuating the status quo. The only way the Left isn’t able to define Republicans by the likes of David Lewis and a suspect ‘Establishment’ is for real, principled leaders with integrity to define it themselves with honorable and courageous actions that strive to live up to our ideals.