Apology accepted?

Last night, council member Jim Ward went out of his way to condemn PAC contributions.

“I want to create a climate in Chapel Hill where it’s distasteful for that [PAC contributions] to happen,” Ward said during a discussion of the town’s Voter-Owned Elections law. “What will keep PACs out of here is if all the candidates make it clear that is it distasteful and they want nothing to do with it.”

Ward, who sits on the right hand of Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt on the council dais, often serves as a surrogate for the mayor – Ward is the mayor pro tem.
Did he take on the role of apologist for Mayor Kleinschmidt during the VOE discussion?

Last year, Kleinschmidt benefitted from an underhanded tactic pulled by a PAC whose only member was former council member Cam Hill. Kleinschmidt took VOE funds, which meant he was barred from directly accepting PAC money. But Hill’s little tactic was not covered by the VOE law — candidates are not responsible for what their supporters do.

Kleinschmidt never condemned Hill’s action. Never took a stand on VOE candidates and PAC receipts. Never apologized.

Jenn Frye, the associate director of Democracy North Carolina, had earlier in the meeting praised the program but cautioned that it needed more cycles to see what issues come up. Well, one issue is PACs and how easy it is to get around the VOE restrictions — what Matt Czajkowski rightly labeled “a huge gaping hole” in the law.

Frye said other municipalities would like to try similar programs based on the Chapel Hill model, which required General Assembly approval before it could be implemented.

Let them look carefully at Chapel Hill’s VOE law, and what has reared its ugly head with PAC contributions. And let them make laws that set zero tolerance for PAC money in any form for VOE candidates. Because mayoral apologies can be hard to come by.

–Don Evans

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
Previous Post
Leave a comment


  1. Steve brown

     /  October 29, 2010

    Kleinschmidt would NEVER apologize for something like that. It is beneath him.

  2. I think you need to learn to sit back and take a deep breath before you hit that ole “POST” button.

    If I get your logic, the “problem” with VOEs would be solved if Kleinschmidt had apologized?

  3. Steve Brown

     /  October 29, 2010

    I think you completely missed my point.

  4. Cam

     /  October 29, 2010

    This blog should be called: “The blog to keep irrelevancy alive”.
    VOE has nothing to do with outside PAC advertising. If you completely abolished the program PACs would still be allowed to do what they are allowed to do.
    “You folks” should debate the merits of VOE based on what the law does and doesn’t do and stop acting like whiny victims.
    Mark has no reason to apologize, “you folks” should stop suggesting he should.
    Jim Ward condemned “PAC contributions”? Huh? Does he mean no one should contribute to PACs? or PACs shouldn’t contribute to campaigns (which is prohibited by VOE)? or is this just bad, unclear (all to common for this blog) writing?

  5. Steve Brown

     /  October 29, 2010

    Yeah- we aren’t talking “ethical” here, just “legal”. Sheesh.

  6. Terri Buckner

     /  October 29, 2010

    The whole purpose of VOE is to take money out of the equation and ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to serve in elected positions. PACs, such as the one Cam Hill created, put money back into the equation, muddying the electoral process and violating the intent of VOE. If PACs are allowed, and that’s what the Supreme Court has said, then we are dependent on residents to abide by the spirit of VOE rather than the official law.

    I don’t think Mark needs to apologize; he can’t be held responsible for what Cam did. But I do think he and the rest of the council, especially those who accept public money, should publicly state that they do not want any PAC support for their campaigns. And if that support is given anyway, they should publicly acknowledge it and express their unhappiness with that support.

  7. Don Evans

     /  October 29, 2010

    But I would expect Mark to at least condemn what Cam did. So far that hasn’t happened. Strange omission by the town’s leader.

  8. Fred Black

     /  October 29, 2010

    Agree with Terry, and yes, Mark Kleinschmidt had the opportunity to make a forceful statement about his vision for campaigns in Chapel Hill and he didn’t take advantage of that opportunity. Councilman Ward has it right. It’s hard for people to accept that you believe strongly in VOEs as a way of negating the impact of money in elections and not clearly proclaiming that you are against outside spending by a PAC supporting your election, and one that was on the verge of completely violating the NC election laws.

    At the time, Candidate Kleinschmidt said he was too focused on the election to think about Hill or the mailer. I think the quote was “I have not had room in my head to even think about it.” He has had plenty of time since. Does anyone dispute that the expenditure directly benefited Kleinschmidt’s taxpayer-funded campaign, tipping the election by 105 votes?

    The Orange County Democratic and Republican parties issued a joint press release denouncing the material sent by “CHC PAC.” They were praised for doing so. As a member of the Democratic Party the candidate should have joined them in denouncing what his friend did to help his campaign. Kleinschmidt did say that he was disappointed in the tone of the mailer but he should have gone further.

    Elections have always had a lot of characters on the ballot; elections also reveal character.

  9. Steve Brown

     /  October 29, 2010

    The fact that he did not denounce the mailing in strong words speaks volumes about him.

  10. Duncan O'Malley

     /  October 29, 2010

    I find it amusing that Cam Hill asks Chapel Hill voters to stop acting like “whiny victims.”
    Spoken like a true bully.

  11. Leroy Towns

     /  October 31, 2010

    “Voter owned” is political spin for taxpayer financed. Fortunately, the Supreme Court will not allow the council to prohibit a citizen from spending money to speak for or against a candidate, even one using tax money to get elected.