Will sex-harassment scandal in NC "doom" Democrats in 2012?

The Democratic Party chose Charlotte, North Carolina to host its convention thanks to its new status as swing state, following Barack Obama’s narrow win there in 2008.  By putting Obama on stage in Charlotte, they hope to recapture the magic in the Southern state and deny Republicans and Mitt Romney the chance to swing 15 electoral votes in November.  The last thing they need now is a sex scandal in the North Carolina Democratic Party — but that’s what they have now, according to The Daily Caller.  But is it as dire as it’s being painted?

A former North Carolina Democratic Party staffer was sexually harassed by a party official, made a financial settlement with the party and signed a non-disclosure agreement to keep the incident quiet, according to emails obtained by The Daily Caller.

“If this hits the media, the Democratic Party, our candidates, and our credibility are doomed in this election,” reads one email exchange between state Democratic leaders.

An email chain between those Democratic leaders, obtained by The Daily Caller, indicates the executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party, Jay Parmley, and the alleged sexual harassment victim both signed non-disclosure agreements.

A North Carolina blog revealed the name of the other staffer involved in the complaint — which involved same-sex harassment.  As the Daily Caller explains and as the e-mail chain within the party corroborates, that comes as particularly bad news for North Carolina Democrats.  They are fighting a referendum that would define marriage in the state as between one man and one woman, and a same-sex harassment scandal might be the end of their ability to defeat it:

In an email to state Democratic Party chairman David Parker, North Carolina Democratic statehouse candidate Watt Jones said this sexual harassment looks bad for Democrats.

“With a Democratic Party which is suppose [sic] to be fighting to defeat Amendment One [which describes marriage as between one man and one woman] on the May 8 ballot, yet we have this in Goodwin House?,” Jones said. “How does that look?”

Parmley, the accused harasser according to the Civitas report,  is still employed by the Democratic Party.

That last factoid might be the most damaging revelation in the entire report.  If party insiders found this to be so bad as to be potentially “dooming,” why not cut Parmley loose?  Perhaps it might just be that the internal investigation didn’t find any evidence of wrongdoing.  I’ve helped investigate a few of these kinds of incidents, and this outcome is not unusual under the circumstances.  Cases like these don’t usually have evidence (unless people are dumb enough to use company e-mail — ahem), only testimony, and usually not much of that except from the complainant and the respondent.  Settling the matter with a financial payment and a non-disclosure agreement is rather standard, and intended to keep anyone’s reputation from being harmed without just cause, and such a “quiet” settlement isn’t necessarily sinister, and probably isn’t in this case.

Politically speaking, it’s not good news for Democrats, but I rather doubt that they’re any more “doomed” than before this revelation.  Few voters will change their minds after having read the e-mail chain from The DC.  Obama won North Carolina in 2008 by only 14,177 votes out of 4.28 million cast, and thanks to the economy and the NLRB attack on Boeing (in neighboring South Carolina), he’s going to have more problems in hanging onto that slender advantage than just a party-HQ harassment settlement.  Their biggest problem might be potential disarray in the state organization in the few months leading up to the convention, but the national party probably has enough resources in the state to deal with on-the-ground problems already.  The timing and location of the scandal is certainly bad news, but by August, I doubt seriously that anyone outside of the full immersion of politics will know who Jay Parmley is, even in North Carolina.

On the other hand, this is the first look I’ve gotten at the DNC convention logo, which I used for the front page.  They really used Obama’s campaign logo as a model?  I guess the entire Democratic Party is now all about the O.

Update: The Boeing plant was located in South Carolina, which I knew, but my point was that it was a big story regionally (and nationally, for that matter).  I’ve added a parenthetical to the text above to make my point a little clearer.

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