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What Speaker Moore admits to already looks bad
But there's little chance he'll face any repercussions. We live in a coarser culture and more shameless political environment than even a decade ago.
The sex scandal involving N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore dominated the political conversation last week, for good reason. It’s salacious, it’s deeply personal, it’s painful to read, and it confirms what everybody expects is happening up in Raleigh but nobody wants to think about.
At this point, I really don’t want to recap the story but I guess I will. A low-level Wake County Republican elected official filed a lawsuit early last week against Speaker Moore alleging that Moore broke up his marriage by initiating an affair with his wife — a state government worker in a quasi-political position. The lawsuit further alleges that Moore abused his power by trading political favors for sexual ones.
Speaker Moore readily admits that he had an on-again, off-again “casual” relationship with the wife in question beginning in 2019, though he claims the couple had separated before he began it. And he vigorously denies abusing his power or trading favors.
We may never get much more clarity on the whole situation than we have now. But the big question remains: What comes next?
Probably not much.
In the legal arena, the chances that Speaker Moore faces any major judgment feel remarkably slim. WRAL has already dug up enough evidence to call into question the state of the marriage that Moore allegedly disrupted. It’s a hard case to prove in any situation, and this one is as clear as mud.
That leaves the political arena. Oddly enough, there’s been little public discussion over the morality of Moore’s actions. The rest of the General Assembly is dead silent, and the media has more or less come to Moore’s defense. They seem to be more offended by the fact that an “alienation of affection” law exists in North Carolina than interested in exploring the nexus of sex and power that this case highlights.
I guess that’s to be expected. On a scale of one to John Edwards, this particular scenario ranks relatively low.
While a few decades ago this would be a fairly significant scandal, we live in a coarser culture and a more shameless political environment today. As long as you never act embarrassed, you can openly embrace things today that would have undermined your career a generation ago.
In an interview with WBTV, Moore called the relationship “appropriate” and tried to cast himself as the victim of “outrageous” accusations.
But based on what Moore says is true, it’s really hard to feel bad for the guy. He is one of the three most powerful people in North Carolina politics, and by his own admission, he pursued an affair with a married woman decades younger than he is — who is also a state government employee in a pretty unusual General Assembly-created position. It’s not a good look any way you slice it, and this type of cavalier behavior inevitably catches up with you.
Chances are, Speaker Moore will largely ignore the issue and skate by without major repercussions. The conversation will quickly turn back to veto overrides and budget deals and whether Moore will draw himself a district to run for Congress next year.
Whether that’s appropriate or not depends on your point of view.
Catch up quick
Beth Wood to run for re-election as state auditor
State Auditor Beth Wood, a Democrat, tells WRAL that she plans to seek re-election despite pleading guilty to a hit-and-run charge involving her state government vehicle. Back in January, it seemed like she was losing her public confidence. But she chose to lay low, and refuse to be embarrassed, and now it feels likely that she’ll win another term like nothing ever happened.
Fairness in Women’s Sports Act heads to Cooper’s desk
The General Assembly voted to approve a bill that would protect women’s and girls’ sports in North Carolina schools by preventing male athletes from competing in them. The bill will almost certainly be vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper — but the Republican supermajority seems likely to override the veto even if the handful of Democrats who supported the bill switch their votes.
Cooper vetoes pile up — but override votes are coming
Early in this session, it seemed like Gov. Roy Cooper would be judicious in wielding the veto pen this year. He allowed several bills he wasn’t crazy about to become law without this signature, not wanting to wade into a political fight he was likely to lose. Well, that strategy is now out the window.
Last Monday, Cooper vetoed four largely uncontroversial bills1, including two that passed the Senate unanimously. By mid-week, the Senate had voted to override all four vetoes — though only one Democrat (Sen. Mike Woodard) stuck with his vote in favor of the bills. The House is scheduled to take up the override this week.
At the end of the week, Cooper took the unusual step of vetoing the annual farm bill. That override should be scheduled shortly.
Worth your time
If you’re curious about the civil law that undergirds the Speaker Moore lawsuit, you can read The Assembly’s explainer of it here.
1 good idea from another state
Maine close to approving paid family leave plan
Maine appears set to be the next state to approve a paid maternity leave plan. Under the bill, mothers could take up to 12 weeks off following the birth of their child while receiving somewhere between 66% and 90% of their salary. The program is paid for through a payroll tax, but businesses with less than 15 employees are exempt.
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The four bills are:
Senate Bill 299. This toughens penalties against local governments that don’t file audited financial reports on time. It passed the Senate unanimously.
Senate Bill 331. This tweaks the regulations around payday loans, slightly increasing the interest rate these lenders can charge but also increasing the amount they pay in licensing fees. It also passed the Senate unanimously.
Senate Bill 329. This slightly increases the rate store credit cards can charge. It passed with a handful of Democrats in favor.
Senate Bill 364. This prevents state government agencies from asking job candidates about their political or social views. This one is the most controversial of the four, but it also passed with several Democrats in favor.