Let’s see, now. Jim Black isn’t named Tom DeLay, isn’t from Texas, isn’t the majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives and hasn’t been indicted for his cozy relations with people having a vested interest in his work. Is there any other important respect in which their political situations differ?
Black, speaker of the North Carolina House, had as his political adviser Meredith Norris, a lobbyist for a would-be lottery contractor. Because Black didn’t pay Norris, she was not technically his employee even though she had something like free run of his office, gave direction to his staff and used his equipment. But because the relationship got him into hot water, he made a production of firing someone he said he hadn’t hired.
Someone whom Black did “hire,” in the sense of appointing him to the state lottery commission, was Kevin Geddings, who had business dealings with the contractor. And if Black didn’t exactly hire anyone to help him write the House version of the lottery legislation, he did let Scientific Games provide some language advantageous to itself.
All this the speaker characterizes as “mistakes in judgment.” If that’s so, let’s all earnestly hope that he never puts his mind to any willful wrongdoing.
Norris is gone. Geddings is gone. That leaves only Black and Scientific Games. And it leaves them right in the thick of the controversy, with millions in revenue for the public schools hanging in the balance.
Black needn’t resign, but he ought to step aside as speaker. And he ought to do it now.