Tuesday, February 15, 2011

NBC reports charges may be near for Edwards

NBC News is reporting this morning that charges may be near in the marathon federal investigation of former Democratic U.S. Sen. John Edwards.

Prosecutors are believed to have been looking into whether Edwards, a former vice presidential candidate, violated campaign laws in covering up his affair with Rielle Hunter, a former campaign videographer who now lives in Charlotte.

The federal grand jury in Raleigh that's heard evidence in the case isn't scheduled to meet again until March. But NBC reported the 2-year-old investigation is at "a decisive point."

"Sources close to the investigation say Justice Department attorneys are now conducting a final review of evidence, and an indictment could come within days or weeks," the network said. "In what could be an ominous development for Edwards, prosecutors already are making arrangements to record the sworn
testimony of a key witness for possible use in a future trial, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"'It would be surprising now if he wasn't indicted,' said Stephen Saltsburg, a former federal prosecutor and George Washington University law professor. 'If John Edwards was aware that the money was being paid to hide his mistress .... and it was done to help his campaign, then he's in trouble'."

Edwards attorney, Wade Smith of Raleigh, told NBC that he doesn't believe "there is evidence that John violated any election laws."

Prosecutors reportedly plan to record the testimony of 100-year-old Rachel "Bunny" Mellon. Former Edwards aide Andrew Young -- who once claimed paternity of Edwards' child with Hunter -- has written that the wealthy Mellon gave $700,000 that was used for Hunter's living expenses. He called it "Bunny money."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bowles: Obama budget "nowhere near" what's needed

President Obama's proposed budget, out today, calls for about $1.1 trillion in spending cuts and tax hikes over the next decade to reduce the deficit and ultimately the federal debt. But for Charlotte's Erskine Bowles, the cuts go "nowhere near where they will have to go to resolve our fiscal nightmare."

That's what Bowles told the Washington Post this weekend. He co-chaired the president's deficit reduction commission that called for deep cuts in areas such as defense and entitlements, including Social Security.

Social Security, Medicare and other so-called mandatory spending make up most of the federal budget.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

GOP businessman considering mayoral run

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx has been basking in a flattering spotlight since last week's announcement that the 2012 Democratic National Convention is coming to town. But before he settles in as the official host, he's got a little matter to deal with -- getting re-elected.

Foxx, a Democrat, plans to kick off his re-election bid March 10. He sent out a fund-raising letter last week, the same day the convention was announced.

So far the only Republican talking about a challenge is businessman Scott Stone, former chair of the city's Business Advisory Committee. He's also founder of the North Carolina Heroes Fund, a non-profit dedicated to supporting military families suffering financial hardships.

"Officially, I'm considering it," Stone said of a possible run. "But understanding it's going to take a lot of time energy and money to win the race. So If I'm going to run, I'm going to have to make a decision soon."

The cost of mayoral races has climbed. In 2009, Foxx raised $642,000 in his race against Republican John Lassiter. That was second only to former Republican Mayor Pat McCrory, who raised more than $800,000, most of which he transferred to his gubernatorial campaign the next year.

Stone is a relative unknown who would need money to change that. Higher profile Republicans are reluctant to take on an incumbent riding the wave of a national convention.

“I’m always keeping my options open," says city council member Edwin Peacock . "(But) you see the writing on the wall. Basically what I see now is the mayor's firmly in the lead."

Stone acknowledges that the convention "changes the dynamics."

"I don’t think it dissuades me from running," he says. "I'm concerned with the Democratic National Convention coming here there are a lot of potential costs, and someone with a business background should make sure it doesn’t bankrupt the city. Having the (convention) here is a great opportunity for the city as long as we manage the cost."

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The 1st Democratic Convention flap: Charlotte barbecue

First Lady Michelle Obama found out early what a touchy subject barbecue is in these parts.

In an email announcing Charlotte as the site of the 2012 Democratic convention, she wrote that Charlotte is "a city marked by its southern charm .... and of course great barbecue."

The AP followed with a story quoting N.C. barbecue expert John Shelton Reed. "Complete the sentence," he said, "As a barbecue town, Charlotte is 1, not what it used to be; 2, like Minneapolis for gumbo; 3, good enough for Yankees; 4, not far from Shelby."

POLITICO piled on. "The gaffe was enough to make you wonder whether the White House had simply cut and pasted Southern clich├ęs to create the first lady's announcement," in a story picked up by the Drudge report.

"A Fox News website also implied that Obama's praise for barbecue was at odds with her push for healthy eating, noting in a Fox Nation blog post: 'Studies show a barbecue meal weighs in at around 2,500 calories'."

Finally today, the group Media Matters joined the fray.

"The stupidest 'story' you’ll encounter all day is the Drudge-hyped 'gaffe' allegedly committed when an email announcement that next year's Democratic National Convention will be held in Charlotte mentioned 'great barbecue'," it said, noting that even if you have to go to Shelby or Lexington for barbecue, that's not far away.

Said Media Matters: "It's like mocking someone for saying that while visiting Los Angeles, they plan to visit Disneyland. Ha! Disneyland is in Anaheim, not L.A.! Or that a visit to New York City might involve catching a Jets game. Ha! They play in New Jersey!"
The picture above, by the way, shows the Obamas at a N.C. barbecue restaurant. In Asheville.