Ken Lewis, a progressive candidate running for the Democratic nomination to defeat Sen. Richard Burr, has called upon the members of the North Carolina Banking Commission to be accountable for their approval of bank bonuses in 2009.
As our economy collapsed, in large part due to the irresponsibility of banks and bank regulators, the NC Banking Commission approved massive cash bonuses for industry executives. Only because of leadership from the North Carolina General Assembly were those who lead our economy off a cliff not rewarded for doing so.
Cal Cunningham has sought to escape accountability for his vote to approve bonuses for bankers. Both he and his senior strategist Scott Falmlen are members of the NC Banking Commission. Not only was Cunningham present on the call, his senior strategist was the first to move for approval of the bonuses.
When Ken Lewis stood up in opposition to banking bonuses, Cunningham staffers were quick to attempt to cut him down. They called him a conspiracy theorist, they called him an opportunist, they called him a liar. The transcript makes it clear that Ken Lewis has told the truth from the start, and it directly contradicts Cunningham's recollection of his own actions.
The transcript shows that:
- The discussion of bonuses for bank CEOs is on the agenda.
- Cunningham actively speaks to the issue of bank bonuses; he asks a question about when the bank bonus vote will be taken.
- Cunningham has a chance to object to what is referred to by Falmlen as the "bank bonus scheme," and fails to do so. He votes to approve.
In an interview with Gary Robertson on April 14th, Cunningham states that the issue was not on the agenda. The transcript reveals that the issue was on the agenda and that Cunningham directly spoke to that agenda item.
In an interview with Mark Binker on April 15th, Cunningham does not deny that issue was on the agenda, instead saying that he got off the phone before the vote was taken. The transcript does not note that Cunningham left the meeting before the vote was cast, but it does make it clear that Cunningham understood that the vote was to take place. It is possible that Cunningham was absent without leave from his responsibility to protect North Carolina's financial foundation, but quite frankly abdicating this responsibility is even worse than making a questionable decision.
You can read the transcript, which was obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request. You can find Cunningham's attendance on page 3, his participation on page 22, and his failure to state any objection (de facto voting approval) on page 48.
This is Ken Lewis's statement regarding the transcript:
"The North Carolina Banking Commission's records today confirm what we have said all along: When Cal had a chance to make a stand against bonuses he was silent. That is not standing up for the working families of North Carolina, that's standing down."
One does not stand up to a political machine without being made to suffer for that audacity. This is evidenced by the regularity with which Cunningham surrogates anonymously attack the integrity of anyone attempting to discuss Cunningham's record. Hopefully readers of this post will be willing to consider the facts as they stand.
By casting an apple of discord into North Carolina's primary, the DSCC has created distrust and disunity within the Democratic party that will not soon be healed.