Charlotte Observer: McCrory's Duke Energy Stock Was Obvious Conflict Of Interest
The Charlotte Observer editorial board is out with a scathing rundown of the scandal concerning McCrory's inaccurate financial disclosure of his ownership of Duke Energy stock weeks after the coal ash spill. In April, McCrory filed his yearly statement of economic interest and claimed he didn't own any Duke Energy stock as of Dec 31st, 2013. Governor McCrory now says that was just an error by his lawyer, a man with 40 years of legal experience. As we now know, McCrory did in fact own at least $10,000 worth of Duke Energy stock at the time of the coal ash spill and sold it at some point between the spill and the inaccurate forms he filed in April. From the Charlotte Observer editorial,
We’re not sure which is most upsetting:
• That Gov. Pat McCrory owned a substantial amount of Duke Energy stock for his first 15 months in office, including for two months after Duke’s massive coal ash spill, even though that posed an obvious conflict of interest as the utility lobbied the administration hard on all kinds of matters.
• That McCrory filed an inaccurate report with the State Ethics Commission, saying he didn’t own any Duke stock as of Dec. 31, 2013, when in fact he did. Doing so reveals either a desire to mislead or gross incompetence by him and his general counsel.
• That McCrory still doesn’t get it. The governor maintains “we haven’t broken any rules” when that is indisputably untrue. He says he is “amazed” at the questions surrounding his mistake, fully unable to comprehend that it’s a matter most North Carolinians consider newsworthy.
Let’s take them one at a time.
Duke, a regulated utility, gave more than $650,000 in campaign contributions to candidates in 2013 and lobbies the McCrory administration and legislators on an array of issues. The governor appoints members of the Utilities Commission and the administration (occasionally) enforces environmental laws. Yet McCrory, who worked at Duke for 29 years, held on to his Duke stock into April, even as he was orchestrating the state’s response to Duke’s spill into the Dan River. That is a direct conflict. He should have sold it the day after he was elected, or at least put his holdings into a blind trust as many other high-ranking elected officials do.
McCrory blames the inaccurate report on his general counsel, Bob Stephens. The forms ask for McCrory’s holdings as of Dec. 31, 2013. McCrory says Stephens “misread” the forms and thought they should reflect holdings as of April 15, 2014, one day after the governor sold the last of his Duke stock.
The governor hopes that excuse is good enough. We don’t recommend you try using it with the IRS if you misstate information on your Form 1040. And scores of other public officials with significantly smaller teams of legal experts managed to read the instructions correctly. It would be stunning for Stephens, with vast experience in public affairs and a 40-year legal career, to overlook something so basic.
Even today, McCrory is not being transparent. He won’t say how much Duke stock he owned; state law is flawed in that it requires him only to say whether it was worth more than $10,000, but it could be any amount above that.
How convenient of McCrory to "accidentally" not report at least $10,000 in Duke Energy stock, just as his administration was trying to deal with the coal ash spill and come up with a plan to clean up the mess. We already know McCrory worked for Duke Energy for nearly 30 years and that he chose to own their stock while Governor, even given the obvious conflict of interest. But we still don't know exactly how much stock he owned, exactly when he sold it or why. So while McCrory continues to keep the public in the dark, he hopes you'll believe that a lawyer with 40 years of experience made a mistake so basic.
We want to make sure folks across our state know what's happening with this important story. You could make a big difference by sharing it with your friends and family.