Former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) used to cut seedy political deals over well-done steak at the posh Capital Grille. Jim Black had to settle for the bathroom at the local IHOP.
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Black, a former Democrat in the North Carolina state legislature, was sentenced to five years in prison this week. (You can read the sentencing memorandum here.) Black admitted last February that he accepted bribes from three local chiropractors sometime between 2000 and 2002 in exchange for bringing chiropractor-friendly legislation to the floor.
But the real intrigue began in 2002, when state Republicans regained control of the House by a razor-thin 61-59 margin. Black, then Speaker at the time, had no plans to hand over the job. Enter the International House of Pancakes and long-time state Republican Michael Decker. Meeting in the restroom of the chain made famous for providing 24-hour access to flapjacks, Black struck a quick deal. In exchange for $50,000 and some party perks, Decker would switch affiliations and support Black in his bid for Speaker. Decker declared his newfound transformation into a Democrat, pocketed his $50,000 in cash and campaign contributions ad Black landed a job as co-speaker. Keep in mind that these charges did not come up in his criminal case, but he has admitted in civil court to paying Decker to switch parties.