The Elephant at the Democratic Convention: Ethics Problems in North Carolina

The DNC is being held in a state plagued by corruption.

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Sexual harassment, assaults, and bribes, oh my!

Charlotte, North Carolina, the home of the ongoing Democratic National Convention, may be the "Queen City," a major financial center, and at the heart of an important swing state.

But it is also a hotbed of corruption, a place where ethically compromised politicians have been indicted, fired or forced to resign over allegations that range from sexually harassing staff members to physically confronting a student to accepting money to switch parties.

Below, Whispers has rounded up some of the most crooked Democrats who rose to power (and fell from it) just miles from the political theater of the convention.

John Edwards

This might have been Edwards's convention if not for the extramarital affair with staffer Rielle Hunter, which he admitted to after his 2008 presidential campaign. The former North Carolina senator was indicted in the Tarheel State for violating federal campaign contribution laws to cover up his affair, though the charges were later dropped. Edwards was not even invited to the convention.

David Parker

The North Carolina Democratic chairman resigned in May after it was revealed he authorized a hush payment to a former staffer over allegations of sexual harassment. Parker later unresigned his position, with local media reports quoting him as saying: "I honestly believe that this is and was a tempest in a teapot." He is still the state chair.

Bev Perdue staffers

The North Carolina governor hasn't been indicted of crimes herself, but three of Perdue's top associates were recently charged with felonies for illegal payments made during her 2008 gubernatorial campaign.

Mike Easley

Perdue's predecessor as North Carolina governor is no better. Last year, Easley became the first governor of the state to admit to a felony when he was convicted for filing a false campaign report. Easley failed to record a $1,600 helicopter ride he took with a supporter.

Jim Black

The former North Carolina House Speaker spent three years in jail for charges of bribery, obstruction of justice, as well as accepting illegal campaign contributions from (of all industry groups) chiropractors. Black took the money on the promise he would support legislation helping their industry.

Bob Etheridge

In 2010, North Carolina congressman Bob Etheridge physically confronted a young man who approached him on the street to ask if he supported the "Obama agenda." Video of the incident shows Etheridge then tried to grab the cell phone camera from the student, as well as grabbed the student's wrist and said: "Who are you! Tell me who you are ... I have a right to know who you are." The seven-term congressman later apologized for the aggression.

Warren Turner

After eight years on the Charlotte City Council, Warren Turner lost his council re-election bid after an investigation found he had sexually harassed at least five female staff members. The North Carolina Department of Corrections also fired Turner, who was a probation officer, after he missed multiple meetings with probationers. They later re-hired him.

Ty Harrell

State Rep. Harrell resigned after being investigated for expenditures made during his campaign that appeared not to be campaign-related at all. Harrell was criticized for spending $235 at a high-end children's clothing store called Lamb's Ear and $191 at a luggage shop called Sharon's Luggage. He insisted both expenses were for a "committee meeting."

Michael Decker

Decker, a former North Carolina representative, pled guilty to having accepted $50,000 as well as other gifts to both switch his party and support Jim Black (mentioned above) as Speaker of the House. According to the Winston-Salem Journal, Decker and Black hatched their plan at an IHOP restaurant in Salisbury in Rowan County, North Carolina.

Meg Phipps

The former North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner spent four years in prison after being found guilty of perjury, obstruction of justice, extortion and mail fraud in connection to campaign funds garnered from carnival operators who hoped for a contract at the North Carolina State Fair. The judge on her case said at her sentencing: "Ms. Phipps has done great harm to the legal profession and to the people of this state. Her conduct does greatly impugn the integrity of the legal profession, and her conduct has greatly (impugned) the integrity of the government." She was released from prison in 2007.

Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at eflock@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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