Vince Wheeler: Perdue repays the loans

Aug. 13, 2013 @ 12:34 PM

Former Gov. Beverly Perdue got some of her fellow Democrats riled up last week when it was announced that she had dispersed the $1.2 million or so remaining in her political campaign accounts.
According to The Associated Press, Perdue gave about $120,000 of her leftover campaign war chest to various charities. But it was not that display of kindness that made waves.
Some Democrats got all in a snit about the $800,000 she used to repay personal loans made to the campaign by Perdue and her husband. There also was that $200,000 paid to writers who are helping Perdue, North Carolina’s first woman to serve as governor, write an autobiography.
That million, or at least a nice chunk of it, should have gone to the cash-strapped North Carolina Democratic Party, some critics of the former governor’s distribution formula have said. A Democratic political consultant from Raleigh, Brad Crone, was particularly harsh. Some in Thomasville may remember Crone from when he was publisher of The Thomasville Times during the mid-1990s.
“This amplifies what everybody already knew, that Bev Perdue was all about Bev Perdue,” Crone told The Associated Press. “It’s not shocking that she made sure she got paid back. That won’t dismay anybody.”
That’s pretty harsh talk coming from a longtime Democratic Party backer. Current state Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller was more diplomatic, although he did express sentiments that the party could have used the money. “She fully understands how greatly these funds are needed in the community,” he said. “We look forward to the governor’s continued involvement and her support for the party and its candidates.”
I’m thinking folks such as Crone are being too hard on Perdue. All she did was repay campaign loans; they just happened to have been from herself and from her husband. Over the years, I’ve had more than one politician tell me they never put up their own money for a political campaign. They figured they were contributing their time and effort to the election, so others could commit the financial resources needed to run a campaign. That’s always seemed rational to me, so I don’t begrudge Perdue for repaying herself.
There’s always the chance that Perdue will use some of her money in the future to support Democratic candidates and the party, and I expect that will be the case. I’m no tax law expert, but I’m thinking that if she had distributed the money to the party or to other candidates directly from the campaign war chest, she would have received no income tax benefit. And I'm thinking that maybe she could find ways to support tax-exempt Democratic causes, if maybe not specific candidates, with her money and get some tax advantages. So, repaying the personal loans appears to be a potentially smart tax move.

But if I were Perdue and some political party “friends” were blasting me for following the law and repaying my substantial loans to my campaign, that would leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I’m thinking some Democrats this week might be asking Crone to please close his.

vwheeler@hpe.com | 888-3517