Did the Executive Director and the Chairman of the North Carolina Board of Elections (SBOE) really make changes to an investigative report prepared by its own investigators? If so, it’s time for an outside investigation into the State Board of Elections.
WRAL has reported that sources told them Gary Bartlett, executive director, and “Chairman of SBOE Larry Leake made significant edits to Kim Strach’s –deputy director of campaign finance for the elections board – recent investigative report into campaign flights taken by 2004 and 2008 gubernatorial candidates, including Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue.”
Strach has led the campaign finance division for more than 10 years. Ten years ago, the campaign finance division of the State Board of Elections did little more than audit campaign finance reports and they did not do that well – they were years behind then and are just now “catching up”. Then came a string of campaign hearings looking into campaign finance misconduct: 2002 – Meg Scott Phipps (D), Agriculture Commissioner, 2006 – Jim Black (D), Speaker of the NC House, 2007 – Thomas Wright (D), State Representative, 2009 – Mike Easley (D), former Governor.
Phipps, Black and Wright have been convicted of crimes and have served or are serving time in prison. Mike Easley’s indictment is imminent.
Some would argue that these hearings would have never happened except for outside groups’ investigations that pressed the State Board of Elections into action.
As a result of public scrutiny, the legislature allocated for six new positions for the campaign finance division in 2006. Since then the division staff has more than doubled.
It is a wonder how Strach has stayed so long at the State Board of Elections. Some people thought that she was hired by the SBOE as “a token Republican” (her husband, Phil Strach, was legal counsel for the state Republican Party).
Why, after 10 years, is the Democratic Party just now complaining of a “conflict of interest” because of Strach’s husband. Perdue’s campaign attorney, John Wallace, is making the same accusation. In case John Wallace sounds familiar, he is/was the Easley Campaign Attorney too.
If Ms. Strach is guilty of a conflict of interest, what does that say about the Chairman of the Board, Larry Leake appointed by Governor Perdue and Gary Bartlett who was appointed by the Board?