Tuesday, May 31, 2011

GOP's Ilario Pantano says Congressman McIntyre violated election law. Oh, my!

Verne Strickland Blogmaster   May 31, 2011


StarNews file photos

Ilario Pantano (left) and Mike McIntyre ran a contentious congressional race in 2008.
Published: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 6:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 6:19 p.m.

Columbus County Department of Aging Director Ed Worley shot a video last year as part of Rep. Mike McIntyre's "Mike Works for Me" campaign.


The spot highlights several issues that McIntyre, a Democrat, was championing for Worley and senior citizens, including federal funding for a new building for seniors. While "Mike" might be working for him, when Worley worked for Mike by shooting the video, he may have violated federal law.

It is illegal to have a state employee to use "... his official authority for the purpose of interfering with, or affecting, the nomination or the election of any candidate...," according to page 126 of the Federal Election Campaign Laws.

McIntyre's opponent, GOP hopeful Ilario Pantano, accused the congressman last week of violating the law during an anti-corruption rally in Columbus County.

"Mr. Worley appeared in Congressman McIntyre's video, in his office, with his name badge on, using his position as a public official to affect the outcome of an election," Pantano said.

Worley confirmed in a phone interview Tuesday that McIntyre's campaign visited the Columbus County senior center in June 2010 and shot the video in his office. He declined to comment on the legality of the video, but did say that McIntyre visited the senior center several times and helped get the county $450,000 for the new building.

"We could not find help nowhere else," Worley said.

Officials with McInytre's office said campaign workers were looking into the allegations but as of 6 p.m. Tuesday the StarNews had not received a response.

Federal Elections Commission spokeswoman Julia Queen said the agency investigates elections violations on a complaint basis. She said the agency had not received any complaints about the McIntyre video. 

She also said the state board of elections could be the agency to handle the alleged violation since it involved a state employee. 

State law prohibits public employees from doing campaign activities while at work or using state equipment or resources for political purposes. Violating the campaign law is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Officials with the state board of elections could not be reached for comment. 

Pantano argued Tuesday that the $450,000 federal appropriation mentioned in the video was conveniently presented to Worley on Oct. 17, the first day of early voting. McIntyre was in attendance in what Pantano said was little more than a campaign stop.

"If $250 dollars in the economic threshold that triggers (Chief District Court Judge Jerry) Jolly to action, as it was in the case of his impugning of District Attorney Jon David's integrity, then surely he will be compelled to ferret out the details of a potential $450,000 ethical violation that happened under the Judge's nose and was reported in his local Whiteville paper," Pantano said.

Last month, Jolly nixed traffic court because of what he deemed an inappropriate campaign donation of about $250 to David's campaign. The donation was made by the operator of StreetSafe, a hands-on driving program that aims to teach young drivers the costs of risky behavior behind the wheel. Jolly stated in an administrative order he issued that he believed the donation relationship was inappropriate and could throw the court into "disrepute."

Pantano's accusations are the latest in what will likely be a nasty and contentious election season.

The 2010 race between McIntyre and Pantano became one of the most talked-about races in North Carolina. Pantano gave McIntyre his toughest re-election contest in seven tries.

McIntyre won with 54 percent of the votes, but Pantano garnered nearly 100,000 votes in the 7th Congressional District, which includes all or parts of 10 Southeastern North Carolina counties.

Shelby Sebens: 343-2076
On Twitter: @ShelbySebens