McCrory Blames the Media for Pay-to-Play Scandal He's Responsible for
On Friday night the News and Observer released damning report that Governor McCrory brokered a meeting and pushed a private prison contract through for a major campaign donor, against the objections of top prison officials. The next day, the Governor's communications shop responded by blaming the media instead of taking responsibility for the Governor's actions. The editors of the News and Observer and the Charlotte Observer both found Governor McCrory's complaints without merit and have pledged to continue reporting the story.
Gov. Pat McCrory is complaining that a story published Saturday attempted to give the impression that something improper or illegal was done when the governor personally intervened on behalf of a friend and political donor seeking to renew $3 million in prison contracts over the objections of top prison officials.
In a news release late Saturday afternoon, McCrory complained about “distorted” headlines and some information in the articles, which ran on the front page of The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer.
The articles discussed how the McCrory administration renewed private maintenance contracts for a company owned by Graeme Keith Sr., a prominent Charlotte real estate developer and retired banker who has given $12,000 in campaign contributions to McCrory.
News & Observer Executive Editor John Drescher rejected the criticism and defended the story.
“Our story was accurate, fair and complete,” Drescher said. “The story was based on public records, including emails and text messages, and on-the-record interviews. None of Gov. McCrory’s criticism of our report stands up to scrutiny. The FBI has interviewed key participants. We will continue reporting.”
The newspapers reported that McCrory arranged a meeting in Charlotte a year ago of his friend and political donor with top state prison officials to discuss the prison maintenance contracts. McCrory attended the meeting.
McCrory said Saturday that the newspapers “clearly attempted to give the impression that something improper or even illegal was done. Clearly, just the opposite occurred.” He said his administration went through “an ethical process and made a sound, business-like decision that was in the best interest of public safety as well as the taxpayers of North Carolina.”
The N&O and Charlotte Observer are owned by McClatchy and often work together on stories, as they did on the story published Saturday.
Here’s a look at the criticism from McCrory’s office:
▪ That the headline “McCrory held meeting to extend donor’s contract” was “absurd and false.”
That headline was used in The Charlotte Observer. The N&O used a different, but similar, headline: “McCrory brokered meeting to extend donor’s contract.”
McCrory’s release complained that the meeting was not conducted to decide the contract extension and that the headline gives the false impression that The Keith Corp. got the meeting as a result of campaign contributions.
The contract was not extended at the meeting, and the story didn’t say that it was. The newspapers reported that the meeting put into motion the events that led to the contract being extended after prison officials had planned to let it expire.
According to a prison department memo, Keith opened the Oct. 28, 2014, meeting by stating “he had been working on this project ‘private prison maintenance’ for over ten (10) years and during that time had given a lot of money to candidates running for public office and it was now time for him to get something in return.”
Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry, a retired high-ranking FBI official, was at the meeting and said the memo was accurate. Perry said Keith made similar comments to him in another meeting and on the telephone.