10/30/04 — Enemies list: It reads like a Who’s Who

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Enemies list: It reads like a Who’s Who

Many North Carolinians were disappointed at the disclosures that led to Meg Scott Phipps having to resign as commissioner of agriculture and later be imprisoned for corruption.

She is from one of the state’s more respected families. Her grandfather had been commissioner of agriculture, governor and U.S. senator. Her father served as lieutenant governor, governor and president of the community college system.

Her election as commissioner of agriculture was seen by some — especially herself — as a step toward the governorship and perhaps Washington.

Then it tumbled down like a house of cards. Mrs. Phipps was convicted of extorting money from carnival companies wanting to do business with the state fair, along with other campaign finance violations. When charges came to trial, she turned on friends and associates, accusing them of lying in their testimony.

She was convicted in state court and, in the end, she pleaded guilty in federal court. Even many of those disappointed by her conduct must have been saddened when she was sentenced to four years in federal prison. It’s a long time for non-violent crimes. Especially for a woman with teenage children at home.

Now comes another disappointment involving Mrs. Phipps.

The News & Observer in Raleigh cites in its political Under the Dome column that even while still serving as commissioner of agriculture, Mrs. Phipps had prepared lists of “enemies” and “friends” in various categories. The documents reportedly were found during an FBI investigation of her office.

The list of “enemies” was incredulous. Among those listed was former Commissioner of Agriculture Jim Graham. If ever there was a figure in state politics who loved everyone, it must have been Commissioner Graham. He would have been devastated.

But he was far from alone. Also on the list were former Gov. Jim Hunt, Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, the state Department of Commerce, environmental groups — and even N.C. State University!

The existence of such a nefarious list suggests something sad about the mindset of Meg Scott Phipps.

But those making the enemies roster can take consolation in the fact that they were in excellent company.

Published in Editorials on October 30, 2004 11:29 PM