FEBRUARY 14, 2007
The politician known as one state’s most powerful Speaker of the House has pleaded guilty to public corruption for participating in a vote-buying and bribery scheme in which five of his associates have already been found guilty.
Longtime North Carolina Speaker of the House Jim Black has been the focus of a two-year federal investigation into widespread corruption in the state’s legislature and this week the veteran Democratic Congressman pleaded guilty to federal fraud for accepting bribes.
Black accepted illegal campaign contributions, was involved in a cash-for-vote deal transacted at a pancake house and has shady ties to the state’s lottery and video poker industries. He could go to prison for up to a decade and may have to pay a fine of a quarter of a million dollars.
In eight years as the state’s House Speaker, Black wielded quite a bit of power which he clearly abused and used to elevate his office into a potent fundraising machine. As leader of North Carolina’s House he determined which legislation even reached the House floor for a vote and appointed members of dozens of state commissions and boards.
One Charlotte columnist wrote that Black shamed his office, his party, his country, his district and all those people over the all those years who trusted him enough to vote for him.
Of course, he was not alone. A detailed list of the five Black associates who have already pleaded guilty to serious charges is available from a local newspaper.
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