A whole new North Carolina Board of Elections voted 3-2 along party lines to hire the first new Executive Director in 20 years shortly after being sworn in by two state Supreme Court Justices-- one for the Democrats and one for the Republicans.
The board will be scrutinized to see if it can rise above partisanship in the midst of an investigation of more than a half million dollars in campaign donations from out-of-state video sweepstakes operators who are facing criminal charges.
The board immediately elected Josh Howard as its chairman. Howard is a former federal prosecutor who once aided in the investigation of President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.
When asked how the board could demonstrate non-partisan values, Howard replied, “Just watch what we do.”
One of the democrats on the board, Maja Kricker, said, “We really have to decide on the evidence and that has nothing to do with (political) parties.”
Governor Pat McCrory named the new board Friday evening, just days after a campaign watchdog group, Democracy North Carolina, filed a formal complaint asking the State Board of Elections to look into hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Chase Burns, a video sweepstakes operator indicted on racketeering charges in Florida.
Thousands of dollars of those contributions went to McCrory’s campaign, and McCrory’s former employer, the law firm of Moore and Van Allen, acted as lobbyist for Burns’ company, International Internet Technologies, or IIT. Now McCrory has named the board that will look into them.
“The board is made up of partisan individuals picked because of their party affiliation,” said Bob Hall of Democracy NC. “Now their challenge is to rise above partisanship and serve the public interest.”
Hall and Democracy NC filed a similar complaint in 2004 against democrat Jim Black, the Speaker of the NC House, over campaign contributions from video poker interests. Black later was sentenced to federal prison for charges stemming from campaign violations.
The board named a new executive director, Kim Strach, who is a veteran of campaign finance investigations of both democrats and republicans.