We've seen it in Washington and other parts of the country but, recently, North Carolina has had its share of ethics violators in government.
Ex-Agricultural Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps was sent to prison for extorting illegal campaign contributions from carnival operators interested in the State Fair contract she controlled. Former State Senator and U.S. Representative Frank Ballance pleaded guilty to funneling millions of state tax dollars into his foundation to benefit himself and his family. And now, Jim Black, the man who led the North Carolina House of Representatives for many years, has admitted he not only took bribes, but obstructed justice.
He always seemed to be surrounded by charges of impropriety: for taking nearly $60,000 from optometrists, then helping engineer a requirement that 5-year olds entering public schools must get costly eye exams; for appointing to the Lottery Commission an advisor to Scientific Games, one of the companies hoping to run the lottery; for protecting the video poker industry, which gave him at least $150,000 in campaign contributions; and for extorting at least $29,000 from chiropractors for favorable legislation.
He'll be sentenced within the next couple of months and we expect he'll do jail time for his crimes. At one time Black was one of the most influential politicians in the state. Those close to him say he's done a lot of good things for his district and the state, like providing funding for the state ports, boosting teacher pay, improving health care access, and supporting incentives for the state's film industry.
It's a shame he allowed greed and lust for power to overshadow his ethics. As if there wasn't enough distrust of politicians across the country, now the Former House Speaker has left a Black mark on North Carolina politics.