Cardinal & Pine: Federal Crimes Took David Lewis Down. But Voter Suppression Is What He’ll Be Remembered For.

Last week, North Carolina State Rep. David Lewis resigned moments before being charged with two federal crimes. Lewis, the chairman of the House Rules Committee since 2015, was found to have conducted a scheme to transfer money from his campaign committee to help his ailing farm.

According to court documents, Lewis made $365,000 in transfers from his campaign account to his bank account for Lewis Farms between January and May of 2018. Lewis has pleaded guilty to two charges —  a felony charge for making a false statement to a bank and a misdemeanor for failing to file a tax return for 2018.

From Cardinal & Pine

Prosecutors are recommending a sentence of up to six months in prison, a day after another powerful NC Republican, ex-state GOP Chair Robin Hayes, received his own sentence for his part in a 2019 bribery scandal.

It is a strange twist, however, that Lewis departs because of actions that were indisputably illegal, but his most damaging actions in office, affecting millions of North Carolinians, were ostensibly not.

If we can credit Lewis with anything during his time in office—and he co-sponsored many bills that had nothing to do with voting—it is that he removed the veneer of civility off of voter suppression and gerrymandering. 

It is that he taught us here in North Carolina, as so many are learning today in the US Postal Service turmoil, that we cannot take it for granted in the year 2020 that our political leaders want all of us to vote.

In the coming months, Lewis will be judged for his crimes in a federal courtroom. But as a ubiquitous public official who has held almost unchecked sway in the last decade, he will likely be judged by the public in North Carolina for his disastrous attempts to return voting in the South to an ugly place.  

And in the end, he may find the federal judge’s sentencing much kinder.

Lewis is one of the House architects of the state’s racially-motivated gerrymandering — a tactic whereby the state’s GOP drew legislative districts that gave the party advantages in races for U.S. Congress, N.C. General Assembly and the state legislature.

In 2016, Lewis along with the legislature’s GOP leadership passed voting reforms that, as one federal judge put it, targeted Black voters “with surgical precision”— made it clear voting reforms this time weren’t about race.

Speaker Tim Moore and Lewis’ chamber crafted their voter reforms with data on Black voting patterns in hand — analyzing the types of ID preferred by Black voters and the days and times Black voters were showing up at the polls in order to pass reforms that would limit both.

David Lewis, along with other GOP leaders like Tim Moore, have a long history of using their power for their own interests. In Trump-like fashion, Lewis neglected public trust and valued his own personal political and economic enrichment above his duty as a leader. 

Bottom Line: Lewis abused his privileged role that was granted to him by voters, and his actions should be scrutinized. When voters give politicians the opportunity to be our leaders, it is their responsibility to serve their constituents, not their own wallets.

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Alanna Joyner

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