Scanner-gate is likely to haunt the Hunt administration for a long time.
Chris Gardner says the summer of '92 got downright spooky at times for his father's campaign for governor.
It seemed that the forces of Jim Hunt knew in advance what his father, Republican candidate Jim Gardner, was about to say or do, Chris Gardner, who worked in his father's campaign, said Thursday.``It got so bad we were looking at each other funny,' he said. ``We thought we had a leak, a spy.
``Now we know what happened,' he said. ``There were spies, all right, but not in our campaign. Three of them have stood and pleaded guilty. There's just one left, and that's Jim Hunt.'
Two of Governor Hunt's former law partners, including his close friend and political adviser, former N.C. Supreme Court Justice J. Phillip Carlton, pleaded guilty before a federal magistrate Wednesday to reviewing notes and a tape made by a Hunt supporter who eavesdropped on cellular phone conversations conducted by Gardner campaign officials.
Beverly Smith, former head of the Nash County Democratic Party, admitted in federal court two weeks ago that she used a scanner to snoop on cellular telephone conversations between Gardner and his son, Chris, state GOP Chairman Jack Hawke and other Gardner campaign supporters.
Hunt was unavailable for comment Thursday. His office, however, says he had no knowledge of the activities of Carlton and Charlie Lane, his other former partner at Poyner & Spruill law firm in Raleigh and Rocky Mount. His press secretary, Rachel Perry, said he wouldn't know Beverly Smith ``if he saw her on the street.'
Smith's former boyfriend, Ray Livesay of Rocky Mount, disputed that Thursday.
It was Livesay, 43, who told federal authorities during the waning weeks of the contest that Smith was monitoring Gardner conversations for the Hunt campaign.
Livesay repeated Thursday what he told investigators months ago: that Smith told Hunt what she was doing and that Hunt told her ``to go for it.' That was at a chamber of commerce function in Rocky Mount, Livesay said.
Hunt's office acknowledges that Hunt attended the function but if he spoke with Beverly Smith, Perry said, he did not know who he was talking with, ``and he most definitely did not talk about eavesdropping on telephone conversations.
``That is outrageous. Mr. Livesay has said many outrageous things.'
Outrageous, but true, says Jack Hawke, state GOP chairman.
``It sure is interesting,' Hawke said, ``that they tried to make this guy out to be a nut, but everything he's said is turning out to be true.'
Hawke said he has ``absolutely no doubt' that Hunt knew Smith was listening to the Gardner conversations and that Carlton and Lane reviewed the material she gave them.
``We intend to prove that in court,' Hawke said. ``Rest assured that the Gardner family and others, Jack Hawke included, will file lawsuits, and rest assured that Jim Hunt will be placed under oath.'
``Scanner-gate,' Hawke said, is going to be around for a while.
Carlton and Lane are expected to testify before a federal grand jury during the next few weeks. Russ Dedrick, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District, declined Thursday to comment on the case, other than to say the FBI is continuing its investigation.
Carlton and Lane face a maximum fine of $5,000 each. They will receive no prison time.
That's because investigators were unable to determine that ``the defendants' involvement in these electronic communications was for the purpose of tortious or illegal conduct, or for commercial advantage,' Dedrick said. Otherwise they could be facing five-year terms.
Perry said that neither Hunt nor anyone from his staff spoke with Carlton or Lane prior to their Wednesday guilty pleas. So far as she knows, Hunt hasn't spoken with his two former political advisers since their plea.
``Gov. Hunt would never interfere in an ongoing investigation,' she said.
The FBI hasn't interviewed Hunt or asked him for an interview, Perry said.
``They've never approached anyone from the campaign, the governor, or anybody who was involved in developing campaign strategy,' Perry said. ``We didn't win this campaign from illegal information obtained from taped phone calls,' she said.
Chris Gardner, however, says he and his father are certain that the Hunt campaign used the information gained from the illegal snooping. Hawke said he often gave Gardner poll briefings by cellular phone. They would be very useful in deciding where to focus campaign time and money, Chris Gardner said.
Perhaps the worst effect of the snooping, however, was in creating suspicion among Gardner supporters themselves, Chris Gardner said.
It was spooky, he said.
The Roy Lee Fox ad, or non-ad, was the spookiest incident, Chris Gardner said.
Fox was a convicted murderer whose sentence was commuted by Hunt in 1984 after Fox provided authorities with information leading to the conviction of a drug kingpin. Fox killed again, 18 months after his release from prison.
Gardner campaign officials decided during cellular telephone conversations to run a television ad about the Fox release and Hunt's alleged softness on crime.
But they never produced the ad, Chris Gardner said.
``Yet, all of a sudden there was Rachel Perry on the evening news and in the papers talking about how Jim Gardner had stooped to a new low with this ad about Fox.'
Gardner said his father hired an electronics firm to sweep the campaign's Raleigh headquarters for listening devices. When none was found the Gardner folks began looking warily at each other.
``What else could we think?' he asked. ``We thought we had a leak at the highest level of our campaign. I ask you: Who stooped to a new low?'