NEW JUDGE WON'T DISCUSS INQUIRY
By MATTHEW EISLEY, ROB CHRISTENSEN AND AMY GARDNER, Staff Writers
Now that federal prosecutor Paul Newby of Raleigh has been elected to the state Supreme Court, he won't reveal what has happened with a federal investigation of his campaign.
It doesn't matter, he says, because he's starting his new job as soon as this week.
By law, some federal employees, including Newby, can't run in partisan elections. They are free to run in nonpartisan races.
The Supreme Court race was officially nonpartisan. But Newby sought and trumpeted an endorsement by the state Republican Party.
Someone complained about Newby's campaign activities to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which polices the political activity of federal workers. One of Newby's opponents, Rachel Lea Hunter, publicized the agency's inquiry. Newby confirmed the inquiry last month.
But now Newby, 49, won't discuss it. He said the investigation is an internal personnel matter. He also said he won't long be a federal employee, so the probe is irrelevant.
"Part of winning the race is leaving the job," he said. "I'm gone. It's just not a factor."
Newby's take didn't sit well with one politico following the case.
"If you can break the Hatch Act and reap the rewards, what a worthless law that is!" said Christina Jeffrey, a visiting professor of political science and public administration at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C. She is a friend of Hunter's who once ran a Georgia organization called Operation Integrity, which investigated public officials.
"If we were serious," Jeffrey said, "the punishment would be loss of the ill-gotten gains -- to wit, the job one obtained by cheating."
Newby was elected to an eight-year term on North Carolina's Supreme Court. Among other duties, the high court decides whether to punish state judges for unethical conduct.
When asked whether the voting public has a right to know what happened with the campaign investigation, Newby said: "I'm just not going to comment. I don't see that there's a reason to."
Hunter's camp disagrees. "As an elected official of the highest court in North Carolina, one would expect Newby to voluntarily reveal information if he has nothing to hide," said Hunter's campaign spokesman, Cameron DeJong.