Pete's Prep: Monday, July 30, 2018

Greene's plea deal reveals others might be indicted

Former Buncombe County business intelligence manager Michael Greene agreed to a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

From the Citizen-Times story last week:

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis Howell formally accepted Greene's plea  agreement Friday, in which Buncombe County's former business  intelligence manager admits he conspired with others to unlawfully  obtain more than $5,000 from county government.

He's looking at up to five years in prison, but the deal could mean he serves very little time - if any at all.

The agreement also indicates there are other indictments against others.

Greene has agreed to cooperate with the federal  government in its ongoing investigation, but he is excluded from  testifying in any trial or sentencing of his mother, former Buncombe  County manager Wanda Greene. He still would be required to testify at a  trial of any defendants in any case that originally involved his mother  and other co-defendants "in which Ms. Greene's portion of the case has  already reached a disposition," the plea agreement said.

That  agreement comes after Wanda Greene's attorney, Thomas Amburgey, said in  a court filing last week they have been informed that additional  indictments "involving unrelated issues and naming additional  defendants" may be coming.

Meanwhile, another top administrator with Buncombe County is retiring. Budget Director Diane Price joins the exodus of executive staffers in the wake of the Wanda Greene scandal.

County officials disclosed earlier this month that Price, who was among 10 employees to receive a whole life insurance policy, borrowed less than $20,000 against one of her policies. That's despite commissioners' claims that no one other than Wanda and Michael Greene financially benefited. Commissioners were aware that Price had borrowed against her policy at the time of their statement.

Price is the ninth top staffer to leave in the last year, according to the tally by the Citizen-Times.

I've been saying from the first indictment against Wanda Greene... it's simply not believable that these schemes went unnoticed by other staffers. The language of this agreement supports that.

Democrats mad their fake candidate can't trick voters

The Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly changed (again) an election rule for the State Supreme Court. It was in response to a Democrat lawyer who registered as a Republican simply to siphon votes from the GOP incumbent justice.

It's a hoax campaign designed to deceive voters, although the candidate - Chris Anglin - and his leftist campaign manager deny it.

So, the state lawmakers changed the rule, and now Anglin will be listed as Unaffiliated on the ballot.

Democrats are really mad.

The reporter/opinion columnist for the News & Observer - Colin Campbell - sums it up like this:

And instead of simply criticizing the special session bill for coming late in the game without a transparent process, Democrats are resorting to hyperbole. A fundraising email from the N.C. Democratic Party claimed the bill “rigged the Supreme Court election, changing the rules to help the Republican candidate after candidates already filed.”

The election isn’t “rigged” — all three candidates would still have a shot, and a party-less Anglin might win support from voters who don’t want judges with partisan loyalties.

Both parties’ fixation on ballot labeling shows they think voters are idiots who show up to the polls with zero knowledge of the candidates beyond party labels.

Let’s prove them wrong by researching the candidates and making an informed choice. The N.C. Supreme Court is far too important an office to rely on labels alone.

To be charitable, this is a Pollyanna argument. 

As The Federalist Society outlines, there are many reasons for keeping party ID on the judicial race ballots:

The body of evidence, taken together, suggests that if a state changes its method of selection from partisan to nonpartisan elections, this will result in lower levels of contestation, higher reelection rates, more spending during the campaigns, and no less public influence in decisions.

The parties are very concerned about ballot labeling because it's important, and for the better part of two decades we've heard the Democratic Party deny this importance as it changed the electoral processes.

Hall and Bonneau and Hall find that, contrary to the rhetoric of O’Connor and Geyh, state supreme court elections are not universally characterized by a lack of participation by the public. From 1990-2004, average roll-off was 22.9% for all elections. So, roughly 73% of the people who turned out to vote actually cast a ballot for state supreme court judge. This is almost the inverse of Geyh’s claim. Further, when one looks at contested races (races where there was more than one candidate seeking the position), roll-off decreases to 16.1%. Finally, if one looks at contested partisan elections (where voters are provided the partisan affiliation of the candidates on the ballot), roll-off is even lower: 11.1%.

It's not that parties believe voters are idiots (although some undoubtedly are).

But voters behave in some ways that are known to political advisers (and many journalists) - including walking out of the voting booth if the ballot is too long. This is "roll-off" is due to "ballot fatigue."

Many voters are, in fact, uninformed about the many judicial candidates. This is compounded under a system when candidates are not listed with a party affiliation.

This reduces participation in judicial races, and creates greater opportunities for miscast votes.

When they were in charge of the General Assembly, Democrats suggested different ways to seat judges. One of their favored methods was appointment. Driving down voter participation in those races would pave the path towards that end, and eliminating party affiliation on the ballots reduces participation.

Republicans are unwinding that effort.

But, wait! There's more!

Asheville approved a new master transit plan that will require a 30% budget increase next year.

The McDonald's Monopoly game was apparently rigged by an ex-cop insider.

POLITICO reports that former NC Congressman Mel Watt is under investigation for sexual harassment.

Pete Kaliner

Pete Kaliner

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