Videos show McCrory advocating bond's passage, staff calls comments 'harmless'
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - An On Your Side investigation has uncovered videos of Governor Pat McCrory advocating for passage of the Connect NC bond just a week after he denied ever doing so.
The Connect NC bond initiative was first proposed by McCrory last year before being approved by the North Carolina General Assembly and being put on the ballot for a vote in the March 15 primary.
A review of McCrory's public schedule for the time between the bond initiative being approved by the legislature and the March 15 vote shows the governor crisscrossed the state holding bond-related events.
A press release put out by the McCrory campaign on the day of the vote said he had been "traveling the state extensively to make the case for the Connect NC bond."
State law prohibits the use of public money or resources to promote a bond referendum.
"Public funds can't be used to try to persuade folks, but there is an element of it that says if the information is informational and provides information in a neutral fashion, public funds can be used for that purpose," explained Frayda Bluestein, a professor at the UNC School of Government.
Bluestein said that, under the law, public officials are prohibited from specifically advocating for or against a bond referendum or suggesting that voters cast a vote one way or the other without specifically saying 'yes' or 'no'.
The Connect NC bond easily passed. The next day, at an event in which McCrory thanked the public for approving the bond at NC A&T University, On Your Side Investigates asked the Governor if his advocating for the passage of the bond was appropriate.
"I think you're stretching the facts right now. I was educating the public on the bond as governor of North Carolina and I'm proud to do that," McCrory responded. "I think I made my case to you. I know you're desperate for ratings at [WBTV] but don't worry about it."
But videos and news articles uncovered by On Your Side Investigates shows McCrory may have crossed the line between education and advocacy on at least three occasions.
"And that's what I'm going to be encouraging the voters to do come March, is allow the voters to prepare for the future as opposed to reacting to the future," McCrory said at an event promoting the bond at Stone Mountain State Park on October 22, 2015.
Months later, at a March 3, 2016 speech to a crowd at the NC Zoo—billed as the an event to welcome a new polar bear—McCrory once again urged support for the bond.
"Please support these bonds, it's very, very important," McCrory said.
McCrory underscored the importance of passing the Connect NC bond during a discussion at UNC Wilmington on March 9, 2015.
"We don't have a Plan B," McCrory told reporters. "We don't have one because this is my Plan A, and I'm pushing my Plan A because this is the most fiscally responsible plan."
The Governor's staff dismissed the comments as 'harmless' when asked by On Your Side Investigates to respond to the remarks caught on camera.
"WBTV should stop trying to twist harmless comments into a reckless, misleading narrative that disregards the governor's First Amendment rights," spokesman Graham Wilson said.
Wilson did not respond to follow up questions from On Your Side Investigates seeking to clarify whether the Governor would agree his comments in the videos were, in fact, advocating for the bond.
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