Since the news broke today about lobbyist Don Beason's lavish spending habits, I've been struggling to understand how and why this story has been covered up for so long. After doing some digging today, I have to conclude it's a pretty ugly picture of North Carolina's political press.
First off, Beason is not a household word in North Carolina, even though he should be. Up until today, the only definitive story on the influential Republican I could find was written in 2005 by Dan Kane, full of cushy stuff like this:
Top legislators say they like Beason, who was ranked as the most effective lobbyist last session, because he gives solid information and he's honest. "The operative word with Don Beason is 'professionalism,' " said Rep. Richard Morgan, a former Republican House speaker from Moore County.
But there might be other reasons for Beason's success, too. He has skillfully worked with his business clients to direct money to top legislators' campaigns and to cover the costs of their political meetings and events.
Dan Kane wrote that story in 2005, right? And now here we are in 2007, with everyone wondering who's the mystery man that funneled a half-a-million dollars into Jim Black's dirty pockets. And no one fingers Don Beason?
It's not like the Capital Press Corpse has no knowledge of Don Beason. In fact, he's one of their biggest buddies. Reporters in Raleigh eat lunch with Beason regularly, and the state's "most effective" lobbyist has even been known to feed exclusive stories to his favorite Jimmy Olsen's. It's a twisted version of the old Stockholm Syndrome, with reporters befriending sources and then giving them way too many benefits-of-the-doubt.
For example, Laura Leslie at WUNC spent paragraphs earlier this month wondering whether the man behind the money was Linwood Mercer, a lobbyist who died years ago. She goes out of her way to say her story is all speculation, but that didn't stop her from writing it. So I guess it's okay to run with wild, unsubstantiated bulloney if the guy you're writing about is dead and not a reliable source of insider information.
One source told me today that a reporter recently asked Beason if he had a role in this sordid affair - and that Beason said he couldn't comment. Did you see that piece of news anywhere? I didn't.
The way I see it, Beason and the Capital Press Corpse are buddy-buddy. He's scratched their backs - and they've covered for his. Were it not for Jim Black finally coming clean about Beason's cash, I doubt any of the intrepid press would have pursued the issue for another second.
One more point: Beason, Jim Black and Richard Morgan were as tight as it gets. From all I can see, they helped engineer the sell-out of the North Carolina legislature to corporate interests . . . which is exactly where the $500,000 Beason gave Jim Black came from. Corporate interests. Everyone knew the path to Richard Morgan (and Jim Black?) went through Don Beason. At least that's what they're saying now.
So when you start hearing the NCGOP going on and on about what a crook Jim Black was, just remember this: Two-thirds of the treasonous troika were Republicans.
There's a lot not to like about this story, but at the top of my list is the performance of the North Carolina political press. The same people who still haven't gotten to the bottom of why David Almond was forced to resign from the House. The same people who have said "oh well" to Joe Boylan lying about sexual harassment.
Pretty damn sad.
Photo linked to the N&O