One on One: Robin Sage, DeJoy, viruses and the statute of limitations

Published 6:18 pm Monday, September 21, 2020

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By D.G. Martin

I hope the statute of limitations has run out on any of my violations of the Hatch Act and campaign contribution limits during the unconventional warfare exercises in the North Carolina Sandhills in 1964.

Two news stories last week made me recall happenings from years ago. The first from The Charlotte Observer reported that Robin Sage, “the U.S. military’s premiere unconventional warfare exercise,” was being conducted during the week beginning Sept. 11. Students from the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School are “placed in an environment of political instability characterized by armed conflict.” Other soldiers from Fort Bragg play the role of guerrillas. Counties within the exercise zone are: Alamance, Anson, Cabarrus, Chatham, Cumberland, Davidson, Davie, Guilford, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, Richmond, Robeson, Rowan, Scotland, Stanly, Union and Wake.

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Fort Bragg warned, “Residents may hear blank gunfire and see occasional flares. Controls are in place to ensure there is no risk to persons or property.”

There should be no danger, but in 2002 a Moore County deputy mistook two soldiers for criminals and shot them, killing one.

The Army responded to worries about the possible spread of the coronavirus by assuring that all participants in the exercises “have undergone health screenings at multiple points throughout the training pipeline to insure that no soldiers have COVID-19.”

The second news story concerned the political activity of Greensboro’s Louis DeJoy, the U.S. Postmaster General. According to U.S. House Democrats, he asked employees of New Breed Logistics, DeJoy’s former company, to contribute to Republican candidates between 2003 and 2014 and promised them extra bonus money.

House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., stated, “If these allegations are true, Mr. DeJoy could face criminal exposure.”

However, the statute of limitations, usually five years in such cases, may prevent any prosecution of DeJoy for these acts, but not for any more recent violations.

And I hope the statute has also run on any violation I may have made when I was in the Army and participated in the special warfare maneuvers in 1964.

As part of the war games, my unit assigned me to play the part of a “behind enemy lines” secret agent, sending back information, picking up downed pilots, getting instructions to other spies and recruiting helpers. I called Watts Auman and asked him if his family would take in a “spy” for a few weeks. Watts and his brother Bob had been my friends at Davidson College. Their parents, Clyde and Sally, were well-known peach farmers in Moore County and lived right in the middle of the maneuvers.

They agreed. I moved in and conducted my “spy” activities under the cover of being a farm helper.

Clyde was campaigning for a seat in the North Carolina legislature and Sally and Watts were working on his campaign materials. Their challenge was to persuade folks in Pinehurst and Southern Pines to vote for a farmer from West End. They asked for my help and I gave it willingly.

The Aumans had long been active in politics, supporting candidates sympathetic to the needs of farmers. Clyde had been county chair for Kerr Scott’s 1948 campaign for governor and 1954 campaign for the U.S. Senate. The year I was spying, Kerr’s son Bob Scott was running for lieutenant governor. When he came to Moore County to campaign, Watts and I drove him around and he shared with us the highs and lows of political life.

Looking back, my campaign activities during the maneuvers were probably violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits active campaigning while on the job and campaign finance laws that prohibit the use of an employer’s assets to aid a political campaign.

I am glad the statute of limitations has run.

There was no coronavirus in North Carolina that summer but, thanks to the Aumans, I picked up another virus, the political bug, and that virus has stuck with me to this day.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” Sundays at 3:30 p.m. and Tuesdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. The program also airs on the North Carolina Channel Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and other times.