Anatomy of A Scandal

January16/ 2000

…. We’ve covered some lulus here over the years but not too many have drawn the reader interest of the current Mary Easley Mess.  There is more to this scandal than has been reported in “the mainstream”.  For those of you not in NC, this has sinister elements that could happen in your backyard too.   Friends to the Right of me – Friends to the Left of me …. Volleyed & Thundered.

 The Mary Easley Mess has all the ingredients to grab the casual reader’s interest.  Unlike many political scandals (and this IS a political scandal!) this one is not wrapped up in stock options, insider trading and cash being passed in public restrooms.  Those get complicated.  This one is simply “the wife of an unpopular scandal-ridden lame duck Governor gets a high paying job at a local public university (NCSU)”.   

Any time the spouse of a high profile politician does ANYTHING it is “political” and it is “news”.  If Todd Palin gets a parking ticket outside an Applebeees in Anchorage tomorrow it will be above-the-fold in the NYT.  If “The Easleys” run a scam thru NCSU it is NEWS and it is POLITICAL.

I got involved because I am an outspoken supporter of Erskine Bowles.  Erskine is well-known as a high profile Democrat as well as President of the UNC System.  I never voted for Erskine in his two Senate races but I did (and continue to) support his efforts as UNC Prez.   It was Erskine who had to face the media last week and defend Mary Easley’s “high paying unique job” at NCSU.  Pretty much everyone who heard his explanation rolled up their pants legs to avoid their getting soiled with what was being shoveled fast and deep.  NCSU has a reputation for barnyard involvement so what Erskine spread was appropriate.

Erskine Bowles was never supposed to ever know anything about Mary Easley’s cushy “high paying job” at NCSU.  The conspirators purposely maneuvered “under the radar” of the UNC System office.  This scandal would have never seen the light of day except for one fellow …. My good friend Don “Kolchak” Carrington.  Historians of local political scandals will recognize “Kolchak’s” name.  Without Don, the world would never have known that John Edwards was living on a palatial estate outside Chapel Hill.  ‘Twas Don in a low-flying Cessna that took “the aerial photos showed round the world”. 

Don is an investigative reporter for The John Locke Foundation.  Good little Liberals are taught at an early age to “run Forrest run” from those “eeevil Locke people”.   Don takes pictures of palatial estates hidden from public view and Don calls the NCSU Personnel office for “PUBLIC RECORDS”.  If Don doing those sorts of things bothers you …. How come?

Mary Easley was coming under fire this past Spring for exhorbitant trips she was taking on the taxpayers’ nickels while her spineless husband hid in the basement of the Guv Mansion (literally) as scandal after scandal after scandal took down his cronies.   Don recalled some “part time job” Mary had at NCSU and acting on a hunch, called NCSU for PUBLIC RECORDS.  It so happened he called the day after Mary’s latest $80,000 raise had been slipped thru.  …. One domino hit another domino hit another domino and first thing you know Erskine is wishing he was down in Atlanta shutting down an illegal NCCU diploma mill rather than facing a giggling media explaining Mary Easley’s “unique qualifications”.

So my friend Don Carrington makes a phone call in June and in September my friend Erskine Bowles takes a credibility hit that will be a permanent stain on his tenure as UNC Prez.  Mary Easley is cashing her fat checks and a goofy fellow from the Alfred E. Neuman School of Metro-Sexual Mediocrity named McQueen Campbell lurks in the wings.  Neither Mary nor McQueen are friends of mine nor likely ever will be …… YA THINK!

McQueen Campbell is a Raleigh real estate speculator of modest accomplishment who chose his parents well (uh oh, one of “those”!!).  He slipslided his way into the quid pro quo favor exchange with “The Easleys”.  Mike stuck McQueen on the NCSU BOT when McQ’s resume was lighter than Daniel Evans’ bench press.  McQ gave Mike insider access to some coastal real estate deals that “flipped” REALLY REALLY well for Mike.  McQ found himself Chairman of the NCSU BOT before he had even been program chairman of a Rotary Club…. (or shot a moose, won a snowmobile race, or even been a community organizer)

NOTE:  The name “McQueen Campbell” belongs in the Hall of Who Names A Kid That along with Reille Hunter’s gal pal “Pigeon O’Brien”.   I mean “REALLY”.

Be a fly on the wall in The Chancellor’s Suite at either Carter-Finley or Kenan on any Saturday and you will see more McQueen Campbell-types than you can shake a silverspoon at.  The sumbitches breed in those dens of faux-smiles and “Give me a call and let’s do lunch at the club soon.”  Quid meets quo in a mating dance much older than the shag.

Meanwhile Mary was teaching a few courses at NCCU at $70,000 (more than comparable teachers were being paid …. The trend begins to form !)  The legend of Mary Easley as a legal whizbang (think Mrs Clinton at The Rose Law Firm …. cough cough) began to grow.  …. “uniquely qualified” don’t you know.  Mary soon moved over to NCSU and her part time salary jumped to $90,000.  But nobody noticed.

 NOTE:  Friends of Mary Easley are unanimous that she is not as spineless, smarmy and devoid of any personality as is her husband.   Those apparently are her “unique qualifications” to book speakers for NC State at $170,000 per. ….. oh, and to keep the alligators out of the Brickyard too.

With Mike’s gubernatorial gig going into the homestretch it was time to get serious about getting that “quo” for all that “quid” he had passed out.  “Hey McQueen what say we create some flimflam deal for Mary for as much $$$ as we can slip thru without anyone noticing especially that goody two-shoes Erskine?”  “Sure thing Guv Mike.  Consider it done.”  McQueen jerked a few chains among the faceless academicrats at NCSU and whattayaknow a new salary gets approved for Mary …..

…. Then Don Carrington called.   KABOOM!

Recall 18-24 months ago when Erskine axed over $1,000,000 in administrative salaries from his central office payroll.  Good folks with meaningless positions were put out-of-work.  It was “the right thing to do”.  EB has run audit after audit at the “predominately black UNC campuses” to clean out years of fiscal flim flam.   He has uncovered incredible waste and corruption buried deep on campuses throughout the UNC System.  His faithful stewardship efforts have gotten minimal coverage but they were “the right thing to do”.  None of that matters much now.

Is Mary Easley’s $170,000 salary “a lot of $$$”?  Compared to what?  Mike made $500,000 in McQueen’s land flip.  Basnight, Rand and Jimbo The Weasel scam and pilfer millions.  A slip of a decimal on a NCDOT contract costs taxpayers MILLIONS and no one gets fired.   “Tax payers $$$” are not like real money.  Keep grabbin’ double handsful because hardly anyone will notice …. If someone does, “we have people who can make it go away.”

Sure, it could have all been cleared up and Erskine’s credibility and professional reputation saved but who really cared about that?  Not McQueen Campbell or Hanna Gage and certainly not Mike & Mary Easley.

If any of this had been on the up-and-up, Lady Easley would have said “Thank you so much.  I’m honored, but this is improper and unfair to state employees and to the good citizens of North Carolina …”  She could have done that a year ago and again when Don’s first story was filed ….. or Mary Easley could hide behind Erskine Bowles’ coattails and have a darn good man take the fall for her sorry lyin’ ass.  Adversity does not build character …. It reveals it.

I cannot “defend” what Erskine said last week.  He would never expect me to or ever think I needed to.  His bespectacled geekiness notwithstanding EB is a tuff ol’ bird.  Sure he could have stood on the steps of the UNC HQ and exposed all the pettiness and corruption and sorry rascals involved …. and gotten his skinny butt fired.  The sorry rascals would have immediately installed a “go along to get along” spineless sycophant in his place.  Hey McQueen wanna be UNC Prez next?

Erskine Bowles never needed this thankless job.  But North Carolina needed a man like Erskine Bowles in this job.  We still do.

Erskine took this job well aware of “how UNC bizness and state politics has always been done.”  He went into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave with his eyes open to.  He made a positive difference there too.  He has and will make positive differences with the UNC System.  He will get bruised and bloodied in the process.  He just did.   This is an easy scandal to understand so the smell from this will stick to Erskine for the duration of his tenure.  It won’t stick to the hoity-toity BOT and BOG members who are hiding behind Erskine.  Look’em up on the UNC and NCSU websites.  They oughta be ashamed of themselves.  They won’t be because they are beneath shame, but they should.

Truth be known Erskine likely knew “something like this” would eventually turn up and bite him in the butt.  My telling my fellow right-wingers “to give Erskine a chance” won’t work any more.  That bridge was burned last week.  I’ll stick by him myself though because it just seems like the right thing to do.    The “Try To Do Rights” is a lonely club to be a member of but I’ve never been much of a group guy any way.


 That earlier phrase “Volleyed & thundered”

What Tennyson epic poem did that come from?


  I’ve got a bunch of fascinating stuff to do more columns about.  Look for a buncha columns over the next few days …. or maybe not. ….. Upcoming Topics: An Epic DeathMatch at The N&O ….. The Future of Journalism As We Know It ….. Ongoing Color & Pageantry ….. The NCAA Takes “The Color” Out of The Pageantry …. Gotta Be A Football Hero …. America’s Dunkirk.

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