Lloyd "Mickey" Meekins Jr. is no stranger to politics.
He's personally credited with corrupting the results of not one but two elections through a vote-buying scheme in South Carolina in the 1980s, Raleigh's News & Observer reported last week.
Meekins, who was 28 at the time, racked up several felony charges from that escapade, including depriving "the citizens of Dillon County of the right to have their votes tabulated free from dilution through paying voters, altering ballots and tabulating fraudulent ballots." He also faced charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and voting more than once in connection with two county Democratic primaries, the Sumpter Daily Item reported at the time.
Meekins, then a Dillon County councilman, was removed from the council by his fellow members and later cut a deal with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to misdemeanors in exchange for his testimony against other members of the vote-buying ring. After he testified, he and his family were whisked away into the federal witness protection program to protect him from other members of the scheme who had threatened to kill him, the Daily Item reported.
Meekins re-emerged years later in Lumberton, N.C., reopening the family's real estate and auction business. He ran afoul of state law again while selling a truck and was disciplined by the state auctioneer board for "bad faith or dishonesty" in 2002, the News & Observer reported. Incredibly, he managed to get himself appointed to the same board that disciplined him by then-governor Mike "Sleazley" Easley, who, along with his underlings, is presently under investigation for so many things it's hard to keep them all straight.
While on the board, Meekins led the charge to have the investigator who leveled the charges against him fired.
Meekins is exactly the kind of person a politician should avoid in a state that has seen its top leaders, all Democrats, investigated, indicted and in some cases imprisoned in recent years. Yet as the N&O pointed out, Gov. Bev Perdue took $4,000 in contributions from Meekins' wife and allowed Meekins to fly her around the state during her 2008 campaign -- all the while, babbling on at campaign stops about ethics and promising that she wouldn't appoint people who had been indicted on felony charges to boards and commissions.
But as soon as she took office -- you guessed it -- she reappointed Meekins to the auctioneer licensing board. Perdue's spokesperson later backpedaled, telling the N&O that Meekins had only been convicted on misdemeanor charges and that people who had been disciplined by boards could still serve on them -- caveats Perdue didn't mention on the campaign trail.
That's pathetic. Among the roughly nine million people who live in the state, surely there was a better choice for the position than Meekins. Which brings me to another point of bafflement: Surely our governor isn't for sale for so little? Heck, when Sleazley or former State House Speaker Jim Black (due to be released from prison March 2011) sold a vote or an appointment, they at least pocketed tens of thousands of dollars for it personally or for their campaigns or both. Given the risk the negative publicity associating with someone like Meekins could potentially bring, Perdue ought to have at least raked in a cool $20,000 to $30,000, an apparent minimum pay to play amount among her predecessors. (Then again, that assumes the paper has found all the money and flights the Meekins clan donated.) Or it could be that Perdue simply forgot to report the rest of it, as it turns out she did with several flights.
Given that the silly-me-forgot-to-report-flights-from-donors thing has led to Sleazley and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican, being investigated over the last two years, you'd think Perdue would learn. But no. Last week, the N&O showcased half a dozen cases of questionable donations, associations and appointments swirling around Perdue. One donor's wife resigned from the cushy state university trustee position Perdue appointed her to after the N&O started asking questions in recent weeks. (The donor, Rusty Carter, and associates at least coughed up a respectable $48,000 for that one, which Perdue returned after the paper and the state board of elections started asking questions.)
All of which makes me wonder: After seeing the trouble this exact sort of thing caused Sleazley, Black and a whole host of other unsavory characters from Perdue's party, people who were personal friends, how could this possibly be worth it? The patterns of the sleaze she is repeating now are so similar that one marvels at the sheer lack of creativity. If you're going to rob a bank, you don't rob the same one in exactly the same way as a guy before you who got caught did.
And you don't surround yourself with people like Meekins, who explained to the N&O that his "different experiences" make him qualified to serve on the board. Like hell they do.