Ballance’s Future May Hinge on State Audit

Posted September 5, 2003 at 6:27pm

Freshman Rep. Frank Ballance (D-N.C.) is taking a wait-and-see approach to his political future as he tries to ride out controversy at home over his affiliation with a scandal-plagued youth foundation.

Multiple House Democratic leadership aides and Members said Ballance has in recent weeks contemplated everything from resigning as chairman of the freshman class to giving up his House seat altogether as allegations swirl over his involvement with the John A. Hyman Memorial Youth Foundation.

Ballance serves as chairman of the foundation’s board and while serving in the state Senate helped secure state funding for the nonprofit, which the North Carolina government is currently auditing. According to local news reports, the foundation allegedly failed to provide audit statements to the state, misused its funds and neglected to provided annual tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service.

Ballance, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus elected last year to a strongly Democratic district, said he is withholding comment on the ordeal until the matter is resolved. The state audit of the foundation is expected to conclude in the coming weeks.

While mum on the allegations, Ballance did respond to a question of whether he is considering stepping aside: “No. A flat ‘no’ on that.”

Ballance, according to sources, reiterated that point in a closed-door session Friday with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). But key House Democrats insisted the North Carolina lawmaker has had Member-to-Member conversations in which he has voiced serious concerns about problems with the foundation and whether he can ultimately weather the controversy.

Well-placed sources said Ballance penned a letter this week to Pelosi resigning his post as chairman of the freshman class, but ultimately decided against submitting it.

One well-placed Member said there have been “live discussions” about Ballance resigning, but lawmakers aren’t pushing him in that direction. Any decision to leave the House would be his own, several Democratic sources said.

“There have been Member-to-Member conversations,” said one leadership aide. “He’s extremely nervous about it.”

Contributing to the controversy is Ballance’s past role as a state Senator, when he helped secure thousands of dollars in state money for the foundation, which served his district.

News reports say Ballance failed to disclose that some of the foundation’s money went to a day-care center run by his mother, as well as members of his campaign staff and other organizations run by campaign contributors.

A second leadership aide familiar with the situation said Ballance has recently backed off earlier talk about resigning, now insisting he’s going to wait until the state issues an audit of the foundation. That aide and several other well-placed Caucus sources, however, said Ballance hasn’t entirely ruled out resignation.

The organization provides counseling and medical treatment for individuals with drug and alcohol problems and distributes grants to youth programs. In a recent statement published in the Raleigh News and Observer, Ballance said, “I continue to support the foundation’s work of addressing issues of substance abuse prevention and treatment in communities of need.”