Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Mike Causey Has a Mighty Expensive Chauffeur


Commish Mike Causey, left, with
Roger Blackwell
Photo Gene Galin, Chatham Journal

In the spring of 2020, after Commissioner of Insurance Mike Causey wore a wire for the FBI and exposed the bribery attempt by billionaire Greg Lindberg, which sent both Lindberg and NCGOP Chair Robin Hayes to jail, I considered Causey a civic hero for his incorruptibility. Now naive was I?

Perhaps it happens to every politician who begins to feel invulnerable, though why Causey might feel entitled by invincibility seems a stretch, since he won the office of Insurance Commissioner by a very thin margin in 2016 and held on for reelection in 2020 by only very slightly better numbers, and he himself has a primary this year. His current scandal caused me to recall that he actually ran for this office some four times before he eventually won it. So why he would choose to become a poster child for corruption now seems passing strange.

The article by Dan Kane and Kyle Ingram appeared yesterday in the News and Observer with the headline, "Insurance Commissioner pays friend & donor a high wage to drive him on state business." That friend and donor, Roger Blackwell, 77, who's donated at least $10,000 to Causey's campaigns since 1995, drives Causey to and from his home to his office in Raleigh and around the state to various municipal fire departments to hand out checks, and on very long trips, like to Santa Fe, which took three days on the road (one way!) and for which the chauffeur was also paid $44 an hour for 8-hour do-nothing days while Causey attended a two-day conference. Blackwell is making up to $84,000 per annum, about $30,000 over the average wage for most state employees.

It gets worse from there.

David Wheeler

Especially worse, as the News&Observer reporters allege a "pattern" of Causey's cronyism. Blackwell is not the first to be paid over-well for what in some cases has been "make work" (according to another of those hires).

Democratic Insurance Commissioner candidate David Wheeler, an "American muckraker" of Expose Madison Cawthorn fame, is on the attack about Causey's pattern of behavior, demanding that the state auditor, state treasurer, and state budget director, all and severally, conduct a full investigation into Causey's abuse of state vehicle privileges. 

There are two Democratic candidates for Insurance Commish. Evidently slow on the uptake, Sen. Natasha Marcus, Wheeler's primary rival, has so far had nothing to say about Causey's corruption. Why not? If Morgan Jackson is running Josh Stein's campaign for governor, and if Josh Stein recruited Marcus to run for Causey's job (even after Wheeler had declared his intention of doing that very thing), then maybe someone would have the juice to recommend she speak out.

No comments: