by Rick Henderson
Editor-in-Chief, Carolina Journal
• Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, who recently received a two-year prison sentence for diverting federal funds for personal use, says his prosecution was a “witch hunt” led by political opponents. LaRoque was convicted by a jury for using funds meant to aid low-income rural businesses to invest in rental property and buy luxury goods. He funneled the money through nonprofits he controlled. The conviction was thrown out when a juror was ruled ineligible, but LaRoque pleaded guilty in January to a lesser felony charge and reported to the federal prison in Butner earlier this week.
• Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-9th District, has refused to release the letter the House Ethics Committee issued clearing the transaction in which Pittenger sold his family business to his wife. Pittenger Land Investments is being investigated by the FBI, and Pittenger says he’s cooperating fully. The two-term congressman is under no obligation to release the letter, and the committee’s business is confidential. The financial disclosure statement Pittenger released shows the company has generated significant income.
• Tuesday’s announcement of a $21.7 billion spending agreement between Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders should signal an eventual end to the 2015 legislative session. The parties have less than two weeks to agree on spending figures for individual programs before the most recent continuing resolution expires. Other policy disagreements, including Medicaid reform and local sales tax distribution, could be settled after the budget becomes law.
• Though neither has stated their interest in or intention of running against two-term GOP incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, both former U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler and onetime state Rep. Deborah Ross get a full preview as potential Democratic primary opponents from the News & Observer’s Rob Christensen.