Does Gov. McCrory have conflict of interest?

February 16, 2013 8:07:35 AM PST
In February, Governor Pat McCrory filled out a 2012 statement of economic interest that shows he has a meaningful financial stake in Duke Energy worth at least $10,000. The form did not require him to be more specific.

Critics say that shows he should not - at any level - be involved in the regulation of the huge utility company - now the largest in the country after its merger with Progress Energy.

It's not a new concern. Back when McCrory was a candidate, critics saw a potential conflict of interest because of his nearly 30-year career with the company. But now, they say they're even more concerned.

"Is he going to be governor for the people of this state or is he going to be governor for Duke Energy?" asked Jim Warren who runs the nuclear watchdog group NC WARN.

Warren sent a letter to the governor Thursday asking him to disclose exactly how much he has invested in Duke.

Click here to read the letter (.pdf)

"Based on 28 years at Duke Energy, his holdings could be in the millions - or certainly into the six figures," said Warren. His career at Duke Energy alone was a significant conflict of interest.  Now, having his personal fortune tied to the fate of Duke Energy profits is an amplified conflict of interest."

What Warren told us worries him most is a bill working its way through the General Assembly that would essentially fire every member of the state utilities commission - the group that regulates Duke Energy. If the bill passes, McCrory can handpick his own team on the commission.

"He really must step aside in order to maintain the integrity of the governmental process," said Warren.

Earlier this week, we sat down with the governor, and asked him, if that bill - which would give him the power to influence many state commissions - gets to his desk, would he'd recuse himself from the utilities portion of it.

"Oh, absolutely not.  I'm no longer with that company, haven't been for five years now," McCrory told us.  

In fact, McCrory told us because of his career with Duke, he's well qualified to find the best people to serve on that commission.

But Warren and others say, even if that's the case, the fact he's profiting from the company's profits means he shouldn't be the one deciding who guards that hen house.

"I think most every reasonable person would recognize several angles here as direct conflicts of interest," Warren offered.

We reached out to the governor for comment on NC WARN's concerns. In a statement, the governor's camp said he declines to speak to the issue.

"These are the same special interest groups that continue their past negative, personal attacks which the voters rejected," said a spokesperson in a statement.

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