Commentary: Ex-Gov. Easley should face investigation

This editorial appeared in The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

It is a classic prescription for getting ahead or gaining a benefit: Do a favor for someone who then does a favor for you. With a touch of cynicism, one might say that's the way the world works, at least those worldly sectors of business and politics. But can this pattern of mutual favoritism be abused? Oh, yes. Can it ever.

The abuse begins when people in positions of public trust accept preferential treatment – favors – from those who might want to benefit from the exercise of the public official's influence. When that influence is brought to bear, and the favor-bestower gets a nice little dividend, the circle is closed.

How disappointing it's been to learn that the man who was governor of North Carolina for the past eight years, Mike Easley, was perfectly willing to exploit such arrangements or at least didn't make more of an effort to avoid them.

The benefits for Easley? Travel on private aircraft, paid for or subsidized by private parties without full disclosure and in apparent disregard of rules for campaign contributions. An attractive deal on some waterfront property. A high-paying job for his wife, Mary – a job for which she is perfectly qualified, but which may well have been created for her via unusual string-pulling at the highest levels of N.C. State University, her employer.

If all that makes the recent disclosures about Easley family vehicles tendered for their use at no charge seem like the tip of some kind of entitlement iceberg – well, that's exactly what it all seems like. Yes, and don't forget the then-governor's 2008 Florida vacation trip courtesy of motor sports executive Rick Hendrick, undisclosed until recently reported in this newspaper.

Now, however, The N&O's J. Andrew Curliss has fleshed out the Easley favoritism story in detail. It is a story that, if Easley were still governor, could not have been told as fully because of his secretiveness and his administration's refusal to provide key documentation relating to his travels. Gov. Beverly Perdue fortunately is honoring her commitment to openness and directed that previously withheld Easley travel records be released.

To read the complete editorial, visit The (Raleigh) News & Observer.