by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The news that former N.C. House Speaker Jim Black is drawing a taxpayer-funded pension of $3,600 per month — despite a record of corruption that sent him to federal prison — brought to mind words once addressed to Black in a Wake County courtroom.
For some people, the chase for power becomes an intoxicating obsession, and they seem to be willing to do anything to gain it and hold it and keep it. And unfortunately, the evidence before me suggests that Dr. Black was either addicted to it or intoxicated by it, but it was his downfall.
And I followed with great interest the federal hearing. I agreed with Judge [Terrence] Boyle’s sentence. I believe it was a severe sentence, but I thought it was appropriate. For a man who’s 72 years old and now is going to have to serve 63 months in a federal prison, that’s a long time. And that’s a tough sentence.
I had to ask myself what more would be served by imposing yet more time on top of that. But I had to also ask myself and say to myself, the federal government is not the victim of these crimes. The citizens of North Carolina – each one of them is the victim of Dr. Black’s crimes. The institution of the North Carolina legislature – and specifically the North Carolina House of Representatives – is the victim of Dr. Black’s crime. And his conduct has certainly shaken the public’s confidence, if they ever had any, in the integrity of that institution. And his legacy leaves just an absolutely defacing stain upon that institution.
So do I simply impose a sentence that runs concurrently with the federal sentence, so he’s really not punished at all by the state for a crime for whom the victims are the people of the state? Even though his punishment is appropriate and already very severe? So that’s how I spent my time today as y’all agreed and disagreed about a loan [of $500,000 from lobbyist Don Beason] and all those things.
I do believe that the way you punish a person who has abused political influence and has abused money and has abused power is by taking away that influence and that power and also by taking away that money. I think the federal government has taken care of the taking away the power and taking away the influence. Thus the purpose of my sentence: to take away the money.
But not all the money, as we learned this week.