Republican leader in the NC House comes under scrutiny while refusing to answer questions
August 04, 2011
One of the top Republican leaders in the General Assembly, Rules Committee Chair Stephen LaRoque, is the subject of an investigation by N. C. Policy Watch which reports that LaRoque has operated at least two non-profits that have received millions of dollars to provide small business loans in economically depressed areas but the report indicates that some of that money has gone to friends and associates of La Roque without what some former board members contend is adequate vetting and oversight. There are indications that LaRoque's family members have been serving on the non-profits' boards, a circumstance that is "frowned upon" by the Internal Revenue Service. Here's the introduction to the N. C. Policy Watch report:
"Government can't be all things to all people," said LaRoque, a conservative Republican from Kinston, in a televised debate before his 2010 re-election. "We need more self-reliance and accountability."
But LaRoque, who returned in January to the N.C. General Assembly after a four-year hiatus, takes aim at government waste while quietly accepting generous six-figure paychecks for running two public charities funded with $8 million in federal dollars since 1997.
He's earned up to $195,000 a year heading the two small economic development organizations—the East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company—and used the non-profits to loan some of the public funds to his close associates and political allies. Past board members say they were kept in the dark about his pay.
"I was not aware that he was compensated at all," said CeCe Hudson, a former board member from Sampson County. "I don't think there's anything wrong with being compensated fairly, but there's a line."
LaRoque, now in a leadership position at the N.C. General Assembly, refused to answer questions about the management of his non-profits.
This report is indeed troubling. We just published an editorial lamenting what we described as more of the same-ole, same-ole by the new Republican leadership in Raleigh. In that instance we were referring to redistricting. But in this instance we also find it troubling that Rep. LaRoque refuses to explain this situation. We have not confirmed the Policy Watch findings so we would have to take a position at this point that everyone is presumed innocent of criminal wrong doing until proven guilty. But of this we are confident Rep. LaRoque is guilty of: Lack of transparency. And that is not what a person in a leadership position in our government should be doing…refusing to answer questions.
We would encourage our readers to withhold judgment at this point but we would also urge Rep. LaRoque to insist on a thorough investigation of his actions and full, honest and complete disclosure of the results of that investigation. There is enough here to warrant such action, at the very least.
And we'll go ahead and deal with the "double-standard" issue here and now. Yes, there is a double-standard applied to Republicans that is not applied to Democrats. Big deal. Republicans should be very comfortable with carrying the expectation of higher standards than do many Democrats. We don't know enough facts now to know if this is another "Frank Balance" deal and we don't think that matters. What matters is that we need government leaders who are above reproach. And when questions are raised, being "above reproach" means that those questions should be honestly, completely and fairly addressed. We urge Rep. LaRoque to immediately set about doing just that.